Fire Setters

Which children set fires?  Why do they do it?

Curious Children

  • Boys and girls ages 2 to 10, sometimes younger or slow learners
  • Lack of understanding of the destructive potential of fire
  • Ready access to lighters, matches, or open flame
  • Unsupervised

Troubled Fire Setter

  • Mostly boys of all ages
  • Have set two or more fires
  • Use fire to express anger, sadness, frustration, or powerless feeling related to stress or major changes in their life
  • May not understand the consequences of uncontrolled fire
  • Continues to set fires until needs are identified and met
  • Also known as "crisis' or "cry for help" fire setters

Delinquent / Criminal

  • Usually teens with a history of fire setting, truancy, antisocial behavior, or drug/alcohol abuse
  • Fires are set with the intent to destroy or as acts of vandalism and malicious mischief
  • Targets are typically schools, open fields, dumpsters, or abandoned buildings.
  • May involve restitution and criminal punishment if determined to be arson.

Emotionally Disturbed Psychiatric Diagnosis

  • Fire may be random, ritualized, or with the specific intent to destroy property
  • Chronic history of school behavioral, social, emotional, or physical problems
  • Boys or girls, of all ages
  • Sets many fires

Updated: 03/11/2022