The mission of the Youth Firesetter Intervention Program of Paducah-McCracken County is to
- Identify the firesetting behavior of children who have been referred to the program for the unsanctioned and/or unsupervised use of fire;
- Determine the motivation for the firesetting behavior; and
- Provide appropriate education and/or referral for such children/families.
The Youth Firesetter Intervention Program works closely with task force partner agencies to identify at-risk juveniles, interview them and their families, and determine the best combination of education and/or counseling to treat the juvenile. The program consists of six basic components: Identification/Referral, Intake/Initial Appointment, Screening Interview, Education, Intervention Services, and Evaluation Follow-up.
After a screening interview by trained staff at Necco, the educational component of the program includes up to four weekly educational classes that last approximately 1.5 hours each. The classes are held at City Hall and are taught by members of the Youth Firesetter Intervention Task Force who volunteer their time. In the educational program, the youth are instructed in correct fire safety procedures. They also receive information about the legal system and presentations from local medical professionals. Homework assignments are given to reinforce the concepts presented during the classes.
The Youth Firesetter Intervention Program started in March 2011.
In a follow-up survey to a parent of a youth who participated in the program, the parent said,
"This class reminded me about the severity and necessity for smoke alarms and fire plans which we have implemented since taking the class."
The parent also said, "The class was very informative, professionally delivered, and pertinent."
Members of the Youth Firesetter Intervention Task Force of Paducah-McCracken County include the City of Paducah Fire and Police Departments, the McCracken County Court System and Court Designated Workers, McCracken County Attorney's Office, McCracken Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Necco, Paducah Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, Paducah Public Schools, and a local registered nurse.
Members of the task force also are available to make educational presentations regarding the Youth Firesetter Intervention Program.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How did this program get started?
A. In 2009 and 2010, Paducah had several fires involving kids including the setting on fire a piece of playground equipment at McNabb Elementary School. That led the Fire Department to explore ways to start a juvenile firesetter program. After staff attended a course about the topic in Dallas, Texas, they then gathered community partners who volunteer their time. The group participated in a 40-hour FEMA training program.
Q. How does a child get involved in the program, and what is the program’s structure?
A. Children get involved either by being referred by a parent or teacher or by getting caught setting a fire. The program’s goal is to make them understand the consequences and dangers of setting fires. This is a structured, serious educational experience. It’s not fun-and-games. Classes are held at City Hall. The Fire Department learned from other cities that the classes need be in a neutral location and not at a fire station where it seems fun with big trucks and lots of distractions. The program lasts for four weeks with one class per week in the evening. A parent or guardian must be present, too.
Q. Does the program include homework?
A. Firefighters teach the first night of classes and cover the topic of fire safety. The students must complete an escape plan for homework. During the second week, a local registered nurse teaches the kids about burns and their effects. The students read about tragic fire events and write a report. The third week covers crime and punishment with students writing about how they would pay back damages. Presentations are made by local judges and representatives of the McCracken County Juvenile Detention Center. Before the final night of classes, the students interview the various partners about firesetting. The students then read their reports during the fourth week and take a post-test. If students miss any of the classes or fail to complete their homework, they do not pass. Depending upon what led them to the program, they then may be turned over to the court system.