750 kids go on East Lancashire 'fire pests' scheme

First published in Blackburn

A SCHEME to stop children starting blazes has dealt with 750 youngsters in two years, some as young as four.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service launched the FIRES scheme in a bid to stamp out deliberate fires and attacks on firefighters.

So far, of the youngsters aged between four and 17 who have been referred, only five have been re-referred for repeat offending.

Ann Darby, youth development officer at the service, said: “We deal with youngsters who start fires out of curiosity, who make malicious calls at school, and who attack fire personnel.

“Anyone can refer them to us, including schools and parents, and then we put the child on an individual programme after we’ve figured out what they will react best to.”

After a referal, community practitioners will first attend a child’s home to carry out a Home Fire Safety Check, then an initial assessment of the child’s needs takes place.

Ann said: “Then we’ll have a session with the child and their parents, where we talk about good and bad fire, the consequences of playing with fire and the impact burns have have on yourself and others. “We don’t typically do more than five one-hour sessions with a child, but we will break them down into four 15 minute slots if that is what is better for that child.

“We will also use different materials and props, depending on the age of the child and how quickly they are picking up the safety messages.

“A month afterwards we will do a follow-up phonecall to see if there have been any recurring incidents, and then again, eight months later.

“It’s not a quick process, but our figures suggest it’s working really well.”

As part of the FIRES scheme, some youngsters are asked to explain themselves in person to their victim, a process known as Restorative Approach (RA).

Attacks on firefighters have occured repeatedly in East Lancashire for some time.

In October 2007, three attacks happened in four days in the Shadsworth and Audley Range areas.

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