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Winnipeg Police Service

Crime Prevention > Arson Prevention

You can TakeAction to protect yourself, your family and your property from the devastating crime of arson.

THE FIRE TRIANGLE

Fire is a chemical reaction that needs three ingredients to occur:

Oxygen - is present in the air that we breathe. There cannot be a fire if there is no oxygen.

Heat - can come from friction (lighting a match), from a spark (when two stones strike each other) or an electrical arc.

Fuel is anything that is combustible - like wood, paper or cloth.

Things like gas, paint thinner or aerosol spray are fire accelerants. It only takes the fumes from these substances to cause fire. These fumes are invisible, heavier than air and sometimes have no odor. Do not keep any of these substances near a pilot light.

 

FIRE FACTS

FAST: In 30 seconds, a simple flame can be out of control. Curtains can catch fire within two minutes. Within five minutes your whole house could be ablaze.

HOT: Heat from a fire can be worse than the flames. The air itself can sear your lungs. The heat can be so intense that your clothes burn to your skin.

DARK: The smoke from fires causes almost total blackouts.

SMOKE and GASSES: In addition to the heat and flames from a fire, the smoke is also very dangerous. It contains poisons that can kill. And because oxygen is one of the components that make up a fire, you compete with the fire for this precious resource.

FLASHOVER: Happens when everything in a room, from an armchair to a television, becomes superheated and bursts into flames at the same time. This can happen in as little as three minutes after a fire has started.

 

FIRE MYTHS

Myth #1: It is normal for children to play with fire.

It is NOT normal for children to play with fire. Curiosity about fire is common, however, use without a parent's approval or knowledge is dangerous to the child and everyone around them.

Myth #2: If you burn a child's hand, they will stop playing with fire.

Burning a child's hand can create fear and scars, and is against the law.

Myth #3: Firesetting is a phase the child will outgrow.

Firesetting is NOT a phase. It is dangerous behaviour. You cannot afford to wait for fire behaviour to change. It only takes one match to cause serious injury or death.

Myth #4: Some children are obsessed by fire.

In reality, very few children are obsessed. There is almost always a reason behind firesetting behaviour.

 

PROFILES OF FIRESETTERS

Curious Firesetter

  • Typically a younger child with low impulse control
  • Usually a hands on learner who is active and explores the environment
  • May experience fear, sadness or loss as a result of setting the fire
  • May continue to set fires without intervention

Firesetting Behaviours

  • Typically uses matches or lighters and ignites items found in the home
  • Unsophisticated fires set in hidden locations
  • May try to extinguish the fire or may ignore it

Family or Social Dynamics

  • Come from various types of households, but usually have a lack of supervision
  • Has easy access to sources of ignition and a general lack of safety awareness
  • Caregivers may deny their child's involvement and often respond with fear and embarrassment to a firesetting incident. They may have previously tried to stop the child's behaviour.

Troubled Firesetter

  • Usually has a history of firesetting and has experienced a recent crisis or trauma
  • Has poor coping skills, lack problem solving skills and is unable to express or identify with feelings
  • Shows a lack of appropriate remorse after setting a fire
  • May deny or lie about the cause of the fire

Firesetting Behaviours

  • Typically uses matches or lighters and ignites relatively unsophisticated fires
  • Often motivated by frustration and may be a cry for help and/or symbolic of a crisis

Family or Social Dynamics

    • Come from various types of households, but are usually raised in a chaotic environment
    • May have been instances of neglect or abuse
    • Has easy access to sources of ignition and a general lack of safety awareness

Delinquent Firesetter

  • Typically an adolescent with poor interpersonal skills who lacks good judgment and is impulsive and irresponsible
  • Often a risk taker who opposes authority with a history of academic and/or behavioral problems
  • Often deny or lie about the origin of the fire
  • Are embarrassed and afraid of the consequences when caught

Firesetting Behaviours

  • Can set school fires, but often sets fires out of doors
  • Fires are often set with peers and are not sophisticated in nature
  • Often uses fireworks, smoke bombs and sets off false alarms
  • Has a history of firesetting and will use common accelerants to set the fire

Family or Social Dynamics

  • Individual is peer dominated
  • Often comes from a dysfunctional family and has a lack of adequate supervision
  • Fearful of legal or financial consequences and are receptive to assistance
  • Caregivers have made numerous attempts to obtain help and are embarrassed and/or angry about the setting of fires

Strategic Firesetter

  • Typically a teenager with a history of delinquent behaviour who may have been involved with the Youth Justice System
  • Regard any legal consequences of their actions as a joke, fail to experience any guilt about what they have done
  • Have low self esteem and may brag to their peers about the fires
  • Often has gang affiliation and a history of substance use or abuse

Firesetting Behaviours

  • Fires typically have multiple points of origin and are often set in conjunction with other crimes
  • Fires are often set with peers and they usually use accelerants
  • Fires are often well planned and set to cause harm or destruction -- or as revenge fire

Family or Social Dynamics

  • Often alienated from caretakers and society with a history of school problems as well as a history of substance use or abuse
  • Peer-dominated individual with little or no family involvement
  • Caretakers defer responsibility for this person's actions

Pathological Firesetter

  • Very, very few of these
  • Possibly have a high I.Q., but can have a history of severe emotional problems
  • Have had academic and behavioral problems and often have difficulty establishing relationships
  • Have a history of medical and/or neurological problems
  • Are likely to have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Are a loner with a life-long fascination with fire

Firesetting Behaviours

  • Has a long history of firesetting with multiple incidents
  • Fires are sophisticated, cleverly set and are often ritualistic with a distinct pattern. They are usually very destructive.
  • Secretly proud of the fires they set

Family or Social Dynamics

  • Come from various types of households, but they usually are raised in a chaotic environment
  • It is possible that there have been instances of neglect or abuse
  • Have easy access to sources of ignition and a general lack of safety awareness

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR PARENTS

Here are some things to watch for when you know of a suspected firesetter. Some of these could apply to any child, even those with no problems at all, but they should be considered when you are evaluating a child's risk of being a firesetter.

Common Traits

  • Poor relationships with other children
  • Frequent jealousy
  • Breaking of other children's toys
  • Frequent fighting

Behaviours

  • Impulsiveness
  • Showing off
  • Property destruction
  • Running away and skipping school
  • Stealing

Parental or Home Situation

  • Divorce or separation
  • Living with relatives
  • Extended hospitalization
  • History of abuse

 

RISK EVALUATION FOR CHILDREN

Little Risk

  • Two parents that are warm and loving, open and able to discipline
  • No school behaviour or academic problems
  • Adults in the home are non-smokers

Definite Risk

  • Absent or inattentive father
  • Overly harsh methods of discipline
  • Lack of affection
  • Disruptive in school with poor academic performance
  • One or more adults in the home are smokers

Extreme Risk

  • Single parent at home with lack of attention
  • Does not obey family rules
  • Lacks motivation to perform well in school and/or has repeated school behaviour problems  - including have been suspended or expelled

 

THREE THINGS PARENTS SHOULD DO

Teach Your Children About Fire

  • Fire is a tool not a toy
  • Fire is dangerous and can easily get out of control
  • Adults using fire must follow special safety rules

Control Your Children's Access To Fire

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children
  • Always monitor cooking, lit candles, fires and hot appliances

Set A Good Example

  • Remember that children imitate adults

  • Point out the safety precautions that you use around fire

  • Install and maintain working smoke detectors

  • Post Emergency numbers - 911

  • Develop and practice a home escape plan, and where to meet outside the home

  • Practice STOP DROP and ROLL

 

OBTAINING HELP FOR A CHILD

It’s time to get help for your child if:

  • The child has played with fire on more than one occasion and does not respond to your educational efforts
  • The child has deliberately set a fire, or
  • You suspect or find evidence that they are firesetting and you are unsure of how to educate them

For help, call the City of Winnipeg 311 phone line and ask about the Youth Fire Stop Program.

 

TAKEACTION - COMBAT ARSON

At Home - Outdoors

  • Store all flammable material safely.

  • Garbage, leaves, lumber and bulky waste like mattresses and couches should be disposed of properly.

  • Put all garbage in sealed bags and place inside a garbage can or Autobin.

  • If your AutoBin is full, place the garbage in a nearby bin.

  • Large bulky items should be stored at the rear of your yard near the lane (if you have one). Call 204-986-5858 to have these items removed.

  • If you see garbage lying on the ground or roadway, pick it up and place it in a can or AutoBin.

  • Firewood should be kept well away from the house or garage.

  • Place adequate lighting around your home and garage, so arsonists have nowhere to hide.

At Home - Indoors

  • When building or renovating, ensure that all building and fire codes are complied with.
  • Be alert to any smoke or unusual odors in or around your home.
  • Consider the installation of a burglar and fire alarm system with an audible alarm.
  • Keep a photographic inventory and record serial numbers of all valuables and property.
  • Do not allow mail to accumulate in your mailbox or mail slot.

Practice Fire Safety

  • Install smoke detectors - change the batteries once a year - and test your smoke detectors monthly.

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach and out of sight of young children.
  • Develop and practice a home escape plan - and review it with your family.
  • Keep emergency numbers handy.
  • Do not store combustibles in a furnace room or near a hot water heater.
  • Keep all flammable liquids locked away in a safe place.
  • Do not leave any exit area cluttered. Make sure exit pathways are clear in case of an emergency.

Cooperate With Investigators

  • Cooperate with police, fire and insurance investigators.
  • If there is a fire in your area, inform the investigators of any suspicious persons or activities that you may have witnessed.
  • Note the colour of the smoke coming from a fire, and or the presence of absence of explosions that you witness prior to the arrival of fire crews. Pass this information on to investigators - it may be important.

Get Involved!

  • If you see ANY crime in progress or witness a fire, phone 911 immediately.
  • If you see anything suspicious in your neighbourhood, phone the police at 204-986-6222.
  • Join or form a Neighbourhood Watch program or a Neighbourhood Patrol program.
  • For information on Neighbourhood Watch - phone the Winnipeg Police at 204-986-6322.
  • For information on Neighbourhood Patrol - phone Provincial Justice Department at 204-945-6782.
  • Report unsecured abandoned buildings to the police at 204-986-6222.
  • Report street or back lane lights that are out to Winnipeg Hydro at 204-986-2341 or Manitoba Hydro at 204-474-4990.

For more information about arson prevention, contact the Winnipeg Police Community Services Division at 204-986-6322 or email us


If you would like a Police Officer to provide a Power Point Presentation on this topic you can forward your request via one of three ways:
  • email your request to wps-communityrelations@winnipeg.ca
  • fax your request to 204-957-2450
  • mail your request to:
    Unit Commander
    Community Relations Unit
    P.O Box 1680
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    Canada R3C 2Z7
Due to demand, we request you contact us at least six weeks prior to the event. Most presentations are one hour in duration and handouts are provided. The presentation is free of charge - room to be supplied by the organization requesting the presentation, with a minimum of 20 attendees.


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Last update: June 25, 2014

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