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House Fire Started by a Child Prompts Warning from State Fire Marshal

7/10/2002

WINTER GARDEN - A house fire that erupted on July 8 at 3662 Old Winter Garden Road nearly destroyed the single story home. A family of six resided in the home including four children. No injuries were reported as the result of the fire.

State Fire Marshal Investigator Mary Vanatta conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the fire and determined it started in the children's bedroom. Upon questioning the children, she discovered that the five-year old had been playing with a lighter, which set the bed on fire.

"Playing with fire is the leading cause of fire-related deaths among preschoolers," said State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher. "When children play with fire, the victims are often the younger siblings or playmates of the children who start the fire."

Studies have shown that the majority of children are interested in fire and nearly half have played with fire. When investigators determine that a juvenile between the ages of 7 and 14 has been involved in a fire, the focus is not on prosecution but on curbing future behavior by referring the child to a county Juvenile Firesetter Program. The program educates the child and their parents on fire safety and the consequences of playing with fire.

Investigator Vanetta urged parents to keep lighters and matches in a safe place that is not accessible to their children. "At the first incident of fire-play, contact your local fire department for advice," she said.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations is a law enforcement branch of the Division of State Fire Marshal that assists other state and local fire and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of fires of suspicious origin. Information may also be mailed to the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, 3659 Maguire Blvd., Suite 151, Orlando, Florida, 32803.