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Children setting fires a concern for firefighters

By Marc Venema

The number of fires in Belleville involving children is starting to concern local fire personnel.

Over the Canada Day long weekend, Belleville Fire Department responded to two separate fires that were both set by children.

Just a few weeks ago, wood pallets and scraps were set ablaze at a Wilson Avenue lot occupied by Ontario Modular Industries. Children were seen leaving the area.

And two fires near the end of May, one a house fire and one a loading dock were blamed on young children.

Belleville Fire Chief Rheaume Chaput says he’s concerned about the trend and wants to stop it before it gets any worse. He added that a lot of effort and focus is being put into stopping the trend.

“It concerns me a lot because I am concerned about all of the citizens of Belleville, but the kids are more at risk because they don’t realize how quick fire can turn around and burn them,” Chaput said.

Chaput says children involved in fires is a concern for more than one reason.

One reason is the arson aspect of it, another is the dangers involved.

“There’s a high probability they are going to get hurt and we don’t want anybody to get hurt,” Chaput said.

In most cases, a child responsible for setting a fire will be referred to the TAPP-C program (The Arson Prevention Program for Children). The program involves firefighters and agencies across Ontario trying to reduce fire setting and fire play amongst youths.

According to TAPP-C, over half of all known incendiary fires in Ontario are motivated by mischief and vandalism. The majority of those fires are started by children.

Belleville’s Senior Fire Prevention Officer, Dave MacMullen says since the children can’t be charged due to their age, the best discipline is parental discipline.

“Anything from grounding to more supervision, a number of things can happen in-house with the family dynamics,” MacMullen said.

MacMullen said he can’t stress enough how important it is to keep lighters in matches out of the reach of children.

“Children playing with lighters continues to be a problem and the results are tragic, with children getting burned or children dying in fires where playing with match or lighters is involved,” he said. “Statistics will tell us children playing with lighters and matches is the number one cause for children dying in fires.”