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When children play with fire, the Penticton Fire Department has a response

A program run by the Penticton Fire Department works to ensure the city's youth don't get the wrong idea when it comes to playing with fire.
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September 12, 2015 - 11:30 AM

PENTICTON - A program run by the Penticton Fire Department works to ensure the city’s youth don’t get the wrong idea when it comes to playing with fire.

Penticton Fire Department’s Jodi Fotherby says they participate in the Juvenile Firestarter Program. Three members have taken the course through the Fire Commissioner’s office and are certified to administer the firestarter program, including herself and Inspectors Mike Richards and Ken Barber.

“The child is generally referred to us through some means, schools or police possibly, we then acquire parental permission to talk to the youth,” Fotherby says.

The child is given an education in fire behaviour, taught what to look for in fire hazards around the home, and given a basic education in fire safety in the home.

“We don’t act as a counselling service. We’re strictly providing an education,” she says.

Fotherby says some children are “red flagged” for professional help. She says the department has dealt with five children so far this year, and none matched the criteria for red flagging.

“Most often, children just don’t recognize the potential consequences of their actions,” she says.

The program involves giving the child homework and includes follow up visits to ensure the message is understood. 

Fotherby says parents should also be taking responsibility for ensuring their children are supervised.

“Children in households with smokers often have easy access to smoking materials. Parents need to ensure they can’t access lighters and matches, which can become toys to children,” she says, adding the program attempts to involve the whole family in fire education.

Fotherby says during instructional sessions at city schools, she often asks if children have practised fire escape plans with their family.

“Generally, out a class of 25 there will only be a couple of responses,” she says.

“There is so much technology out there today, I think people have the attitude it’s not going to happen to them, but it does,” she says. “It could happen to anyone.”

Penticton RCMP spokesperson Corp. Don Wrigglesworth says the police generally don’t get involved in cases of youth-caused fires until the child is 12-years-old. He says younger cases are left in the hands of the fire department, unless parents request police involvement.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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