Playing With Fire Is a Deadly Game

Young children and preschoolers are common victims

THURSDAY, Nov. 28, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Child's play can be deadly.

Children playing with fire cause hundreds of fire deaths and injuries each year in the United States. Preschoolers are most likely to play with matches and lighters that lead to fires and are most likely to die in such fires, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Most people killed in child-playing fires are under age 6, and child-playing fires are the leading cause of fire death among preschool children.

In 1998, children playing with fire caused 67,490 fires reported to U.S. fire departments, resulting in 232 civilian deaths, 1,805 civilian injuries, and $234.7 million in direct property damage, the NFPA says.

About 3 out of every 4 child-playing fires and at least 4 out of 5 injuries or deaths involve matches and lighters -- with lighters causing the larger share, the NFPA says. But children also start fires when they play with stoves, candles, fireworks and lighted tobacco products.

Here are some NFPA child fire safety tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Buy only child-resistant lighters. But remember that they're not child-proof.
  • Store all matches and lighters out of the reach and sight of children. Put them in a high location, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave young children unattended.
  • Never use matches or lighters as a source of amusement for children. They may want to imitate you.
  • If you think your child is playing with fire or is unduly fascinated with fire, call your local fire department, school, or community counseling agency to help you get in touch with experts who can help your child.
  • Teach young children that they should tell an adult if they find matches or lighters. School-age children should be taught to bring matches or lighters they find to an adult.
  • Children should be taught to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch on fire. Teach children that when there is a fire, they shouldn't hide, but should get out of the house immediately.

More Information

To learn more about fire safety, go to the NFPA.

SOURCE: National Fire Protection Association, news release, November 2002
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