The Cedar Park Fire Department provides and utilizes the Juvenile Fire Setter screening program developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the United States Fire Administration. This program is designed to evaluate a child that has been involved in a fire incident, or has been referred to the department by a parent or other agency.
Most experts agree that the best way to understand a child's fire setting is by looking at the context and motivation for the behavior.
Basically there are four types of fire setting, and for each type a different strategy is used to stop the behavior.
- The first type is curiosity, usually found in 3 to 7 year-old children. The child is curious and plays with fire to learn about it. Fire safety education is recommended.
- The second type is a crisis, usually with 5 to 10 year-olds, involving a sudden change in life or recent trauma. The child is using fires as a "cry for help" to show their inability to cope with the sudden change. They will usually continue until the stress is relieved or is taught safer ways to cope. Recommended treatment is counseling and education.
- The third type is a delinquent. This usually involves children 10 to 14 years old. A child sets fire to impress peers out of boredom, defiance or peer pressure. Restitution and education will help.
- The fourth type is a problem fire setter, usually 7 to 12 years old, with a history of school and social problems. Counseling is recommended.