New programme to stop young people starting fires is launched in Sussex

W31C firewise''Fire services from East and West Sussex have joined forces to start a scheme to stop young people starting fires.
W31C firewise''Fire services from East and West Sussex have joined forces to start a scheme to stop young people starting fires.

FIRE services across Sussex have joined forces to launch a programme to help young ‘firesetters’ and their families.

Firewise is a new joint initiative aimed at helping children and young people understand the dangers of firesetting and to reduce the number and impact of deliberate fires across Sussex.

Youth education officers from both East and West Sussex fire services have spent 18-months working with a qualified education advisor to develop a new suite of interactive age-related resources for use right across Sussex.

A team of 18 Firewise advisors have been specially trained to visit young people in their home or school environment.

Nicki Peddle, safer communities manager for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We know that young people set fires for a variety of different reasons; it may be curiosity, frustration, attention seeking or something else. We work in a supportive and non-judgemental way to help them understand and address the circumstances that may lead them to set fires.

“Both fire services have been running a firesetter scheme for many years. However, by working closely with a skilled educational professional we’ve been able to develop a fantastic suite of new resources and training to support young people and their families.”

All Firewise referrals are treated confidentially and the resources are used flexibly depending on the age and ability of the young person and the individual circumstances of each case.

Paula Hayward, from Burgess Hill, recently used the Firewise service.

She said: “I needed some help with my son to educate him on the dangers of firesetting. I contacted my local fire station and received a call back from a specially trained officer.

“The fire officers were fantastic. They were extremely patient with him and talked to him on his level. In just two home visits they had a hugely positive impact on him.”

Advice for parents/carers concerned about firesetting:

• Make sure matches and lighters are stored out of sight and reach of children and young people

• Be vigilant: matches or lighters may be hidden in bedrooms, school bags or coats

• Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your home. A working smoke alarm will quickly alert you to any firesetting activity

• Look out for scorch marks on carpets, bedding or furniture

• Teach your children to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch fire

• Make a home fire safety plan with your family and practice it

To find out more about Firewise and the assistance that is available in West Sussex visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire call 01243 752535 or email youthinitiative@westsussex.gov.uk

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