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What is TAPP-C?

The Arson Prevention Program for Children is a program for youth who have played with fire or set fires, including such things as playing with matches or lighters, burning paper or garbage, performing lighter tricks, intentionally setting fire to buildings, or making bombs. Fire play and fire setting are dangerous behaviours that not only put the child involved at risk, but also the family and surrounding community. TAPP-C is a community-based program that brings together fire service and children's mental health professionals in a collaborative effort to address this costly and sometimes deadly behaviour.

How does TAPP-C work?

Referral to the TAPP-C program may come from various agencies. A child may be referred by a teacher, a parent, a mental health professional or through the legal system. If a child or youth is identified to be exhibiting fire starting behaviour, the Fire Prevention Division is contacted and a Fire and Life Safety Educator will attend the home. A home safety inspection will be performed to ensure that working smoke alarms are in place and that fire starting materials are not readily available and that a home escape plan is in place. The Educator will involve the child in a course of fire safety education and if required, may refer the child on to children mental health services for further assessment.

Why do Children Start Fires?

  • When a child is upset about upheaval in their life, such as a family break up or death of a loved one
  • There is abuse in the household
  • The child is bullied at school
  • Chronic failure, often caused by a learning disability, is displayed
  • The child needs to assert power, while feeling powerless about something beyond their control
  • Natural curiosity mixed with lack of supervision and availability of fire starting materials

What is Fire play?

  • Playing with matches, lighters and/or fire
  • Playing with electrical appliances such as the toaster or stove
  • Burning items such as paper or garbage
  • Setting a fire to destroy something or hurt someone

Warning Signs

  • Matches or lighters are missing
  • Matches or lighters are found among your child's belongings
  • There are burn marks on household items or on your child's clothing or possessions
  • You child is extremely interested in fire
  • Someone else has complained about your child's fire involvement

Safety Tips

  • Children will mimic your actions, so use caution when working with fire
  • Teach children that fire can be dangerous, to themselves and others
  • Get rid of all but necessary lighter/matches
  • Lock up all necessary lighters/matches
  • Increase monitoring/supervision to prevent access to fire materials
  • Look for burn marks or burned objects around the house
  • Look for burn marks on clothing, or burns on fingers
  • Look for matches/lighters in child's room, play space, backyard
  • Install and test fire alarms
  • Create and practice a home fire escape plan

Help is Available

Fire involvement in any form has to be taken seriously and addressed immediately, since it may start small but can quickly and easily progress to large and serious fires that threaten the safety of the child and the family. Overall, the two most important factors in youth fire play and fire starting are access to fire-related materials and opportunity to use them when adults are not present. The easiest way a parent can prevent inappropriate fire involvement are to eliminate their youth access to fire related materials, and to remove all opportunity for them to use fire related materials. If you are concerned, or would like to receive more information please contact our Fire Prevention Division at 519-661-2500 ext 4565. If you live in Middlesex County, please call  519-777-0599.

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