Juvenile Firesetters

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have run a Juvenile Firesetter Education Programme since 1993 and was initially modelled on the Rochester experience, a programme which was run in New York, United States of America. 

The scheme was introduced to combat malicious fires and arson which was estimated to be costing Tyne and Wear £1.2 million per year. In fact, these figures underestimate the true extent of juvenile firesetting, as they do not include the thousands of outdoor fires and small fires in the home/garden which are started by children but go unreported as parents extinguish them.

It is recognised in most communities that Fire Service staff have tremendous credibility with the public particularly young people. They are seen as role models that have authority but also as friendly and non-threatening. Using this non-threatening, non-judgemental, supportive and positive approach allows personnel to work with families to find a mutually agreeable solution. 

The Programme

The Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Programme is an integral part of our education strategy. Recognising that some youngsters require a more intensive programme, personnel are given a two-day training course on addressing firesetting behaviour. A team of two, one uniformed and one non-uniformed, male and female where possible carries out the intervention ideally in the home although the system is flexible enough to accommodate situations where this is not possible. Through experience this has proved to be a very effective way of providing a range of approaches as required when relating to the differing family circumstances encountered.  

The resources used vary depending on the age and ability of the child or young person and the individual details of each case. One of the strengths of the Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Programme is recognising the role of the Fire and Rescue Service and its limitations. For this reason we are continually developing strong links with relevant partner agencies who have their own areas of expertise to improve our assessment process and facilitate forward referrals. For example Youth Offending Teams, Social Service Directorates and the Nuffield and Kolvin Units, which provide mental health service for young people.