Program aims to stamp out children's access to fire-starting materials

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Local fire safety officers want to keep matches and lighters out of the hands of children. But they face an uphill battle against stores who willingly sell fire-starting products to youth.

Provincially, statistical data indicates approximately 40 per cent of the children involved in firesetting obtained the matches or lighters from stores. This has officers looking at the sale of these items.

Arson-related fires remain the number one cause of structure fires in the City of Hamilton. While dealing with some of these fires, firefighters are told by witnesses that children were seen in the area just before the fire started.

In 2004, Hamilton Emergency Services (HES) responded to over 600 calls for fires in which the cause was determined to be suspicious or arson-related. Of those responses, approximately 139 fires involved structures or buildings while many others involved outdoor fires such as garbage bins, dumpsters, rubbish etc.

"Our department deals with approximately 90 children each year in our HAPP-C program (Hamilton Arson Prevention Program for Children)," said Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek. "These children come to our attention either through a call from their parents or through firefighters that have identified the child as starting a fire to which they responded."

With the permission of the child's parent or caregiver, a fire education session is conducted with an opportunity to recommend or refer that child for further counseling sessions with a trained mental health professional who has expertise in fire risk assessment.

"These education sessions have also told us that many of these children admit to obtaining matches and lighters from local stores, either by purchasing them or stealing them," said Verbeek.

Under Canadian law, lighters and matches are considered regulated products under the Hazardous Products Act. Disposable cigarette lighters must be child resistant and pass rigorous safety tests prior to being offered for sale. There must also be a warning on each lighter that states "KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN" or any other warning that conveys the same meaning.

HES has begun a program to be proactive when it comes to selling fire-related items to children. The program involved over 600 letters being sent to retailers that sell tobacco products asking them to partner voluntarily with the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Emergency Services by not selling matches and lighters to children 18 years of age and under.

Retailers were also given a sheet indicating their participation in the program. Those participating had a sticker delivered to them that could be placed on their window or door advising customers of their involvement in the program.

"This provided us with an opportunity to discuss the re-location of matches and lighters from their countertops, out of the reach of children," said Verbeek. "In the first week since the letters were sent out, the response has been terrific. We have had over 70 retail locations sign up for the program to date."

Store owners who wish to participate, can contact Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek at 905 546-2424 ext 7763 or Inspector Linda Paterson at 905 546-2424 ext 7797.

Program aims to stamp out children's access to fire-starting materials

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Local fire safety officers want to keep matches and lighters out of the hands of children. But they face an uphill battle against stores who willingly sell fire-starting products to youth.

Provincially, statistical data indicates approximately 40 per cent of the children involved in firesetting obtained the matches or lighters from stores. This has officers looking at the sale of these items.

Arson-related fires remain the number one cause of structure fires in the City of Hamilton. While dealing with some of these fires, firefighters are told by witnesses that children were seen in the area just before the fire started.

In 2004, Hamilton Emergency Services (HES) responded to over 600 calls for fires in which the cause was determined to be suspicious or arson-related. Of those responses, approximately 139 fires involved structures or buildings while many others involved outdoor fires such as garbage bins, dumpsters, rubbish etc.

"Our department deals with approximately 90 children each year in our HAPP-C program (Hamilton Arson Prevention Program for Children)," said Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek. "These children come to our attention either through a call from their parents or through firefighters that have identified the child as starting a fire to which they responded."

With the permission of the child's parent or caregiver, a fire education session is conducted with an opportunity to recommend or refer that child for further counseling sessions with a trained mental health professional who has expertise in fire risk assessment.

"These education sessions have also told us that many of these children admit to obtaining matches and lighters from local stores, either by purchasing them or stealing them," said Verbeek.

Under Canadian law, lighters and matches are considered regulated products under the Hazardous Products Act. Disposable cigarette lighters must be child resistant and pass rigorous safety tests prior to being offered for sale. There must also be a warning on each lighter that states "KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN" or any other warning that conveys the same meaning.

HES has begun a program to be proactive when it comes to selling fire-related items to children. The program involved over 600 letters being sent to retailers that sell tobacco products asking them to partner voluntarily with the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Emergency Services by not selling matches and lighters to children 18 years of age and under.

Retailers were also given a sheet indicating their participation in the program. Those participating had a sticker delivered to them that could be placed on their window or door advising customers of their involvement in the program.

"This provided us with an opportunity to discuss the re-location of matches and lighters from their countertops, out of the reach of children," said Verbeek. "In the first week since the letters were sent out, the response has been terrific. We have had over 70 retail locations sign up for the program to date."

Store owners who wish to participate, can contact Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek at 905 546-2424 ext 7763 or Inspector Linda Paterson at 905 546-2424 ext 7797.

Program aims to stamp out children's access to fire-starting materials

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Local fire safety officers want to keep matches and lighters out of the hands of children. But they face an uphill battle against stores who willingly sell fire-starting products to youth.

Provincially, statistical data indicates approximately 40 per cent of the children involved in firesetting obtained the matches or lighters from stores. This has officers looking at the sale of these items.

Arson-related fires remain the number one cause of structure fires in the City of Hamilton. While dealing with some of these fires, firefighters are told by witnesses that children were seen in the area just before the fire started.

In 2004, Hamilton Emergency Services (HES) responded to over 600 calls for fires in which the cause was determined to be suspicious or arson-related. Of those responses, approximately 139 fires involved structures or buildings while many others involved outdoor fires such as garbage bins, dumpsters, rubbish etc.

"Our department deals with approximately 90 children each year in our HAPP-C program (Hamilton Arson Prevention Program for Children)," said Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek. "These children come to our attention either through a call from their parents or through firefighters that have identified the child as starting a fire to which they responded."

With the permission of the child's parent or caregiver, a fire education session is conducted with an opportunity to recommend or refer that child for further counseling sessions with a trained mental health professional who has expertise in fire risk assessment.

"These education sessions have also told us that many of these children admit to obtaining matches and lighters from local stores, either by purchasing them or stealing them," said Verbeek.

Under Canadian law, lighters and matches are considered regulated products under the Hazardous Products Act. Disposable cigarette lighters must be child resistant and pass rigorous safety tests prior to being offered for sale. There must also be a warning on each lighter that states "KEEP OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN" or any other warning that conveys the same meaning.

HES has begun a program to be proactive when it comes to selling fire-related items to children. The program involved over 600 letters being sent to retailers that sell tobacco products asking them to partner voluntarily with the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Emergency Services by not selling matches and lighters to children 18 years of age and under.

Retailers were also given a sheet indicating their participation in the program. Those participating had a sticker delivered to them that could be placed on their window or door advising customers of their involvement in the program.

"This provided us with an opportunity to discuss the re-location of matches and lighters from their countertops, out of the reach of children," said Verbeek. "In the first week since the letters were sent out, the response has been terrific. We have had over 70 retail locations sign up for the program to date."

Store owners who wish to participate, can contact Fire Safety Officer John Verbeek at 905 546-2424 ext 7763 or Inspector Linda Paterson at 905 546-2424 ext 7797.