Yakima Fire Department's Youth Firesetter's Program adds more co - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Yakima Fire Department's Youth Firesetter's Program adds more community resources

Posted: Updated:
Child playing with fire (file) Child playing with fire (file)

Yakima, WA - Yakima Fire Department says there's been an increase in fires started by minors recently.  The most recent one reported was on Memorial Day, May 30th, in the 100 block of California Avenue.  The Yakima Youth Firesetter's Program, works to help educate kids to help prevent incidents like this from happening more frequently.

Each year, according to the National Fire Protection Agency, over 40,000 fires across the country are started by minors, which is one of the many reasons why this national program was started about 20 years ago.

Yakima Firefighter, Jay Elmo, has been a part of the program in Yakima for more than half of his 28 year career with the department, and seven years ago, he became the program's coordinator.

"We just want to let parents know we have this program, if you notice that your kids are playing with matches or lighters, and they cant seem to control it with their own disciplining, we have a program to educate your kids.  We see it every day, we're [firefighters] are all here to protect the citizens, we know that we now have the ability to stop one or even 100, and that's the focus," said Elmo about the Youth Firesetter's Program.

So far, most kids that have gone through the program in Yakima have been under the age of 12, but the program is open to all youth 17 and under, to help give a better  understanding of just how dangerous fires can be.

"Fire is a great tool, but ultimately it's a beast and you can't control it, fires kill people," said Elmo.

 Through the program, kids first meet with firefighters to find out what kind of fire setters they are, and from there the interventionist helps figure out the proper educating the minor needs.  Whether it be sheer curiosity, a cry for help, or delinquency.

Currently, the program is all volunteer-based, and in the process of expanding to include more help from the community, like school counselors, police officers, and officials.  

The program is not mandatory, parents must agree to allow their kids to participate, even if the child did start a fire.  Even if the child did not start a fire, and parents are concerned with their kid's interest in fire, the parent can reach out to the fire department to have their child participate in the program.

The next session will run in September of this year.  For more information on the program, click here