Arson among children is a real problem, but the Fort Frances Fire Department and its partners aren’t going to let it get out of control thanks to a new program called TAPP-C (The Arson Prevention Program for Children).
“With my previous job as well as my time here, we have found children with fire-setting as a behavioural problem,” Fire Chief Steve Richardson said Friday.
“If anyone has noticed their child has been involved in fire play, and has seen signs such as matches or lighters missing or burns on clothes, this program is here to help,” he added.
The district TAPP-C committee is comprised of police, court, and mental health services, as well as district fire departments, creating a network to ensure potential young arsonists can be detected and helped before it’s too late.
“All the schools have received notice as well so if they want to participate, we’re here,” noted Chief Richardson.
He explained the response to a report of fire-starting behaviour is two-pronged.
“With the fire service, we contact the family and pay a visit to the home.
“The purpose of that is to find out if the home is safe. Does it have working smoke detectors? Is there an emergency escape plan?” said Chief Richardson.
“We then talk to the people and try to get them in touch with mental health services. It’s really an initial assessment,” he added.
The reported child, who can be between aged two and 17, then goes through three sessions at the fire department to learn about fire safety and fire’s potential for harm, and then take a test to see how much they’ve learned.
“It’s a very educational and positive program,” noted Chief Richardson.
TAPP-C is being implemented in both the Rainy River and Kenora districts so even if a child identified by the program moves within the region, they still can receive any help they may need.
Chief Richardson stressed he wants TAPP-C to be a well-known service for the district. “Right now, it’s not on the Internet. But I’m looking to get something on there soon.
“People will be able to find it on our link on the Town of Fort Frances Web page [www.fort-frances.com],” he noted.
New to the region, TAPP-C first began in 1991 as a co-operative effort between the Office of the Fire Marshal and the Centre for Mental Health.
Anyone requiring assistance with a fire-setting child can call the fire department at 274-9841. If it’s a crisis situation, call 1-866-888-8988.