Arson awareness week starts May 6

Mike McGuire

As the National Arson Awareness Week kicks off Sunday, May 6th, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) urges residents to educate themselves on the devastating effects of arson and to engage in simple activities aimed at preventing arson incidents.  Every year, fires caused by delinquent acts affect the lives of thousands of families and cause more than $1 billion in property loss across the country.

The Prevent Youth Firesetting campaign, will educate children and teens on the dangers of mishandling matches, candles, and other flammable objects.  The campaign also calls on parents to become more vigilant of their children’s behavior and identify signs that could potentially lead to unsafe, fire-related activities.

“Communities need to take a proactive role inreducing the number of arson fires which compromise the safety of our families,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis.  “Parents, teachers and neighbors should come together to identify any possible signs of arson intentions among minors and take action to prevent intentional firesettings.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 300 deaths and another 3,000 injuries are linked to juvenile-set fires in the United States every year. In 2011, the OSFM Arson Division investigated 353 arson/incendiary fires statewide; juveniles were associated with 43 of those incidents.

Adults should exercise caution when using matches, lighters, approved fireworks and other fire-related tools, when children and teens are present.  Showing respect for fire and practicing safe handling of fire-related tools encourage fire safety among  children.  Fire devices should be kept in a safe place and out of the reach of children, and child proof lighters should be considered as an alternative.  Candles should never be left unattended and working smoke alarms should be in place.

For useful tips and more information about arson prevention, please visit The Illinois Advisory Committee on Arson Prevention (IACAP) website at or