Fire Prevention Programs

Senior FIre Buster Program

The City of Galveston in conjunction with:

  • Noon Optimist Club of Galveston
  • The Galveston Fire Department
  • School of Allied Health Sciences/UTMB

Will provide you with the following:

  • A FREE smoke detector
  • FREE Installation
  • FREE fire inspection upon request

If you meet the following requirements:

  • 65 years of age or older
  • You do not have a smoke detector, one that's not working, or one on every level of your home
  • You must own your home

Contact the Galveston Fire Marshals Office at (409)-797-3870 to schedule your installation.

A Photo of a group of senior citizens

Juvenile Fire Setters Program

If your child has played with fire; if your child has deliberately set a fire; if you are unsure how to teach your child about fire safety, call the fire department! We can help!

Juvenile Fire Setters is an intervention program designed to educate children and parents about fire safety and the consequences of fire.

Each family meets individually with a trained fire service educator. The educator will discuss the situation with the family and provide fire safety education. If a child needs additional intervention, such as counseling, they can link the family up with these services.

Who can make a referral? Anyone who cares about the safety of a child can call for help: Families, friends, neighbors, teachers, and you!

The program takes approximately 1½ hours. All information discussed is confidential. To schedule an appointment, call the Fire Marshals Office at (409)-797-3870

Why do kids play with fire?

Children play with fire for a variety of reasons. By determining the motivation for the fire setting, we can best determine how to deal with it. There are five basic classifications - curiosity/experimentation (most common), reactionary, delinquent, strategic, and pathological fire setting.


The majority of children who play with fire (about 70%) are in this group. They are typically younger in age, and are curious about fire. The opportunity is there because the child has access to fire tools and is not supervised at the time of the incident. He or she decides to "see what fire will do." They usually don't think about or understand the danger of their actions

Example: Six-year-old Michael finds his parent's lighter on the table. He is feeling kind of bored, so he decides to light some papers and sticks on fire. His home life is stable and there haven't been any recent stresses. He seems sorry for what he did.


If a child is upset about something and not good at expressing themselves, they may use fire as a way to let grown-ups know they need help. Their fire setting is in reaction to a problem, a new baby in the family, divorce, family problems, moving, a death, problems at school or with friends.

Example Mom and step-dad are fighting loudly. Amy (age 11) is scared and wants them to stop. She doesn't know how to communicate how she feels, so she takes a lighter into her bedroom and sets her bedding on fire. When the parents notice this new emergency, they stop fighting. What's likely to happen the next time if nothing changes?

Delinquent Behavior

Sometimes kids will light a fire as a prank or dare. Sometimes it's to cover up another crime. Most kids in this group, typically adolescent, don't realize they are breaking the law and could go to jail. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they may not understand the consequence of fire or potential liability to them and their family.

Example: Other kids dare 14-year-old Brad to light toilet paper on fire in the school bathroom. Brad wants his friends to like him. Even though he knows it is wrong, he does it anyway.

Strategic fire setting

In some cases, children will escalate to deliberate acts of fire setting, with no regard for life or property (including their own life). They know what they are doing is wrong and they understand the consequences. They may use fire for retaliation, as part of a group initiation, or to cover up a major crime.

Pathological fire setting

This type of fire setting is rare, and may be connected to a mental disorder or problem. Pathological fire setting may occur for obscure reasons, not easily understood by those other than mental health professionals.

The Fire Problem

Fire is the third leading cause of "accidental" death in the United States.

Most fires and fire fatalities happen in residential properties - homes and apartments. Young children and older adults are at the greatest risk

Children who play with fire start many of the fires that kill young children. These fires are often started by children who find matches or a lighter and are curious about fire.

Arson is the second leading cause of residential fires. Over 50% of all arsons are committed by people under the age of 18 (typically adolescents 12-17 years old).

Myths about fire setting

Myth: It is normal for children to play with fire.

Fact: While curiosity about fire is common, use without a parent's approval or knowledge is dangerous to the child and anyone around them.

Myth: If you burn a child's hands, they will stop.

Fact: Burns only create fear and scars. The reason behind the fire must be dicovered and addressed.

Myth: If you take a child to the burn unit to see burn victims, they will stop playing with fire.

Fact: Going to the burn unit only instills fear, and does not teach the child anything about fire and fire safety. More importantly, we need to be sensitive to burn survivors who are trying to recover(emotionally and physically) from their burns and we should not put them on display.

Myth: Put the child in the back of a police car and have a firefighter talk sternly to them and they will be so scared they will never do it again.

Fact: A police officer will put a child in the back of their patrol car only if they have the legal authority, and it is appropriate to do so. Scare tactics don't get to the root of the problem, and these kids typically continue to set fires.

Myth: It is a phase the child will grow out of.

Fact: It is not a phase. It is a dangerous behavior. You cannot afford to wait for fire behavior to change. It only takes one match to cause serious injury or death

Myth: Some children are obsessed with fire.

Fact: In reality, very few children are obsessed or would be considered pyromaniacs. There is almost always a reason behind the behavior.

What Parents can do

  • Set a good example. If you smoke, be very responsible in your use of matches and lighters. Children learn by watching you.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's sight and reach. Even toddlers can use lighters and matches to start a fire.
  • Teach children the safe and proper ways to use fire. Be sure they understand a responsible grown-up should only use it.
  • Set clear ground rules. Teach children what they should do if they find matches and lighters. If they are young they should "tell" a grown up and not touch them. Older children can give you matches and lighters. As an adult, respond by putting the matches and lighters in a safe place.
  • Match and lighter round up. Ask your children to tell you where all the matches and lighters are located throughout your home. You will be surprised to learn what they know. Be sure to then take all the matches and lighters and put them in a safe place.
  • What's a safe place? You may think that your purse is a safe place; however this is one of the first places children go to get matches and lighters. Put matches and lighters in a HIGH, SECURE location.
  • Other ignition devices - In addition to matches and lighters, fire place starters are common ignition sources. Treat these items in the same way you would matches and lighters.
  • Childproof lighters - while these devices provide a safeguard, they are not totally foolproof. Assume children can manipulate and use these lighters well.
  • Teach children what they should do if they are around other kids who play with fire. They need to get away and tell a grown-up. This can happen at home, while they are out playing, or at school.
  • Children need supervision. Children will set fires if they have the ignition devices(matches and lighters) and opportunity. Be aware of what your children are doing and with whom they are playing.
  • As children get older, teach them how to use fire responsibly. We need fire in our life for many things- heating and cooking. They should only use fire under your supervision and never on their own.
  • Install and maintain smoke detectors in your home. Smoke detectors should be located on every level of your home, outside of bedrooms, and inside bedrooms.
  • Have an escape plan. If you do have a fire, everyone should know how to get out of the house.
  • Teach your child how to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes should catch on fire, and how to treat a burn (with cool running water).
  • If your child plays with fire, contact the fire department. WE CAN HELP!

If you would like educational materials on this subject and fire safety, please contact the Fire Marshal's Office at (409)-797-3870. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

A photo of a book of matches