Novelty Lighters Responsible for Fires Across Nation

During the 2008 Arson Awareness Week, which began on May 4th and runs through the 10th, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) said it is working to educate all Americans about the dangers of novelty and toylike lighters in the hands of children. This year's theme is Toylike Lighters – Playing with Fire.

Toylike or novelty lighters have been responsible for injuries, deaths, and accidents across the nation, according to USFA. State and local governments are taking action by banning the sale of novelty lighters and limiting their distribution.

"It is critical to focus public attention on the dangers of these toylike lighters," said Greg Cade, U.S. fire administrator. "We are pleased to join our partners at the National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Volunteer Fire Council, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute in supporting the ban of toylike and novelty lighters."

Effective January 1, 2008, USFA's National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) began collecting information specifically about novelty and toy-like lighters. NFIRS data indicate that lighters play a role nearly equal to matches in residential child-play fires, and some studies show that lighters tend to be the preferred ignition source. When children set fires in the home, the most common area of fire origin is the bedroom, and the material ignited is often bedding, mattresses, or clothing.

In 2002, the National Fire Protection Association estimated 13,900 child-playing structure fires were reported in the U.S., with associated losses of 210 civilian deaths, 1,250 civilian injuries, and $339 million in direct damage. Most child-playing home fires are started with lighters or matches. The median age of children who start reported fires by playing is 5 years old, compared to a median age of 4 years old for fatal victims, and a median age in the late teens for nonfatal injuries.

The major goal of Arson Awareness Week is to create a national awareness and understanding of the arson-related problem in the United States by encouraging communities to get involved in the dissemination of arson awareness information by creating a simple, identifiable, and unifying message.

For more information, including a media kit, poster, examples of State and local novelty lighter ban legislation, and a regional list of youth set fires, visit the Arson Awareness Week section of the USFA Web site at www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/subjects/arson/arson_awareness.shtm.

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