Nashville, TN – Young firesetters cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Preschoolers and kindergartners are most likely to start these fires, typically by playing with matches and lighters, and are most likely to die in them.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office warns Tennesseans of the risk associated with children and fire-starting items, especially novelty lighters.
Novelty lighters resembling children’s toys can attract curious kids who may see these items as fun, but may not recognize them as potential fire hazards. While Tennessee banned the sale of novelty lighters in 2008, these products still represent a potential threat to lives and property.In the last five years (2011-2015), Tennessee fire departments reported 388 fires in which play with matches or lighters was a contributing factor, according to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System.
Fires resulting from playing with matches or lighters caused two civilian deaths, 13 civilian injuries, one firefighter injury, and $3.7 million in property damage during that time. Over half those fires were structure fires.
We encourage parents to teach children at an early age that fire-producing items such as matches and lighters are tools for adult use only,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Tennesseans are urged to purchase and use only child-resistant lighters. Novelty lighters that look like toys can confuse children and cause fires, injuries, and death. Do not buy or use these prohibited items.”
The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following fire safety tips for parents:
- Supervise young children closely. Many fires happen when young children are left alone, even for a short period of time. Parents must have clear rules and consequences about fire misuse.
- Keep matches and lighters in a locked drawer or cabinet, high out of the reach of children.
- Purchase and use only lighters designed with child-resistant features. Remember, child-resistant does not mean child-proof.
- Teach young children to never touch matches and lighters, and to tell a grownup if they find them. Children need to understand that fire is difficult to control, it is fast, and can hurt as soon as it touches you.
- Take the mystery out of fire by teaching children that fire is a tool for adults, not a toy for children. Never use lighters or matches as a source of amusement for children; they may try to do the same.
- Check under beds and in closets for burned matches, evidence your child might be playing with fire.
- Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home.
- Develop a home fire escape plan, practice it with your children and designate a safe meeting place outside your residence.
- Teach children not to hide from firefighters. Show them how to crawl on the floor below smoke, to get out of the home, and to stay out.
- Demonstrate how to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if their clothes catch fire.
For more information on how to make your home fire-safe, print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist and escape grid. Tennesseans in need of a smoke alarm can also utilize the SFMO’s online alarm request form.