Fire chief cautions parents after several instances of children starting fires occur in recent months

BUCKHANNON – Over the past several months, the Buckhannon Fire Department has responded to several small fires started by kids.

Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble said the city fire department has noticed an uptick this year in arsons started by unsupervised children. As a result, Kimble wants to remind parents and guardians to watch their children closely and not leave them unsupervised around potentially hazardous materials.

“To me, it’s alarming because we’ve never had this,” Kimble said. “I just wonder if it has something to do with COVID, and that’s not to say COVID causes everything, but with kids being stuck home, we’ve had between three to five arsons in the city that were caused by kids under 12 years old.”

Kimble said he just wants to raise awareness about the potential dangers of leaving out lighters, matches and anything else that may be used to start a fire.

“I’d like to do something to get the message out to parents to keep an eye on their children,” Kimble said, “Especially at times when they’re out doing things on their own, please try to make sure there are no lighters, gasoline cans and other similar materials around.”

He said, typically when a juvenile sets a small fire, like the situations the BFD has encountered, there are no arrests, unless there is some kind of child neglect on the part of a parent or guardian.

“Beyond that, there’s a registry that the State Fire Marshal keeps track of, and that’s why we look at them, but nobody gets arrested unless there’s neglect of some sort,” Kimble said. “They have a juvenile fire registry, so that way if the kid is 16 and does it again at 18, there’s proof of it.”

He said the fire department has been alarmed these fires have occurred in such a short period of time.

“It was alarming to us, over this small period of time, all of a sudden we started noticing kids lighting these small fires, and none of them have been big events other than the one on Main Street, but they could have been, so this is a concern,” Kimble said.

He said the fires were started in smaller areas of homes such as the laundry room or an outbuilding.

“During these times and as we go into schools, kids are still going to be home the majority of the time,” Kimble said. “Parents need to be aware of their lighters or anything that has ignition in it, and they need to put it away, kind of like keeping your weapons away from them, too.”

The National Fire Protection Association recommends offers the following safety tips regarding children and fire:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children, preferably high and in a locked cabinet.
  • Supervise children closely to ensure they stay a safe distance away from other fire sources, including lit candles, cigarettes, stoves and bonfires.
  • Take advantage of children’s natural curiosity about fire trucks and cooking to teach them about fire safety. Tell them fire moves quickly and can hurt them the instant it touches them.
  • Teach them to tell a grown-up if matches or lighters are found while playing.
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