Does anyone else have a 'Firebug' child?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Burndoubt, Jun 2, 2009.

  1. Burndoubt

    Burndoubt Burndoubt

    After our difficult child set the garage on fire (accidentally, while playing with gas & a lighter) last Saturday, our Fire Marshall instructed husband to place difficult child in their 'Firebug' course.
    How normal is it for boys to play with fire? husband apparently did something similar when he was a kid, so to him, it's no big deal (other than the $2-3000 damage to the garage, and me losing my mind. again.) Nobody was hurt, it was only stuff, difficult child scared the stuffing out of himself and learned his lesson. Thank G_d we've got insurance!
    I've never done it, but I've never been around boys much, either.
  2. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    Our difficult child had some fire issues when he was younger but fortunately it was nothing along the lines of almost burning down a structure.

    If your difficult child was a bit younger and it didn't involve gasoline I may agree with your husband to an extent. But...your difficult child is 13 and, at least to me, that is way old enough to know what happens when you play with fire AND gasoline. If he's doing things like this at the age of 13, then YES! The firebug course isn't a bad idea.

    Is your difficult child in counseling? If so, obviously this would be a topic of discussion at your next appointment.

    Glad no one was hurt though and good luck!
  3. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    It's not just boys, girls do it too - I did - difficult child 1 loves fire.

    However there's a time and place. In the firepit, outside... Fireplace, inside and monitored.

    I'm glad he scared himself. I hope the warning lasts. It didn't work with difficult child 1, but she's not gotten past setting off the smoke alarm for paper.

    The firebug course is a good idea!
  4. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think the firebug course is a great idea. Both my kids love fire, but not the setting and obsessivness that can create issues.

    I have a 13 year old difficult child boy and I would expect, that at 13, your difficult child should have known more about the consequences of fire and gasoline. Very dangerous, in my opinion.

  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Personally, I think playing once or twice with fire is pretty common. If your difficult child turns around and sets something else on fire after this, that would be in a different league, in my humble opinion. When kids are really into trying to set things on fire, it is a big red flag for seruious problems.

    You might want to check on this- in our area, a kid is put through the fire program when he/she is first caught doing something dangerous with fire. If they are caught after going through that program, their are major charges brought to court. My son is in state juvy right now- he had a suspended sentence that included a charge for felony arson (he set a brush fire), then almost 2 years later, he messed up again- although that had nothing to do with fire. You might want to ask the fireman giving the course to talk to your son and get the point across to him- the legal systeem does not look the other way when it comes to fire.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There's fascination with fire, and total anarchy.

    I used to play with fire, it annoyed my dad no end. He would have the incinerator lit to burn rubbish and I would poke sticks in te fire, so I could study what happened and the way ther burnnig sticks behaved. I noticed that the sticks burned best when left in the fire; as sooon as I removed them from the fire, they would rapidly cool to just a glowing coal on the end and the power of this coal to set fire to anything was greatly reduced. I would try to use the glowing tip of the stick to light leaves etc, or to burn holes in paper, sometimes I would even build my own small pile of leaves and try to light it. But I was learning about fire in a management kind of way. husband says he did the same sort of thing.

    In Guides (what we called Girl Scouts back then in Australia) I learned how to lay a fire and we took pride in never using more than one match. Those who could light a fiew without using ANY matches (or lighters) were respected.

    I've noticed my kids (especially the boys) have been much the same. Toasting marshmallows has been a useful way for them to learn, with me in supervision. All my kids were responsible with fire well before they were in their teens.

    What I describe here is what I beleive is fairly normal behaviour, at least in Aussie kids. And remember, Aussie foliage is highly incendiary. Not only do we have eucalypt trees with their highly volatile and flammable oils (you could run your truck on them) but we also have ti-tree/melaleuca, and a number of other highly flammable plants such as cabbage-tree palms. Those palm fronds are glossy with natural lacquer, they burn ferociously. One palm frond has to get cut up into small strips, the stem into six inch lengths and we use ONE of these as kindling to start a fire. With cabbage tree palm, I can start a fire with wet wood.

    So a firebug in Australia has plenty to play with. We recently saw the result of the damage firebugs can do - the Victorian bushfires were at least partly due to firebugs.

    It's easy for fire to get out of hand, for an inexperienced kid. But ANY use of an accelerant such as fuel - that is not an accident, that is a kid trying to cause damage. Or if not aiming for damage, he is at least trying to get attention and an adrenalin charge from creating a large and 'pretty' fire. "Look, it's big, it's hot and I made it happen."

    Of course he got a fright. But tucked away in there is, he also did some damage and most of it to other people's stuff, stuff that matters a lot more to you and husband than it does to him. So the damage, in his mind, is minimal. May even be desirable (because it upsets you).

    I would second the course as a good idea. My main reservation is, the course is designed for otherwise normal kids who need to learn a bit of common sense and responsibility. But it could run the risk of teaching a potential firebug exactly how to control fire, and make it do what he wants it to more effectively next time.

    But if that is what is going to happen - sooner would be better, because if he is a genuine firebug, he will do bigger and better fires the older he gets. Better for him to get caught while young and not too capable at it.

  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    In my experience, all my kids tried to say touch the stove AS TODDLERS. When they got burned that was it. The child we adopted was obsessed with fire and set little fires. We didn't know he had done that until he was gone and the other kids showed me the small patches of carpet in their bedrooms where he had set fires.
    A little interest in my opinion is normal. Too much, not. IF they learn about safety and still don't care, even worse. I think at 13 he knew the danger. This kid in my opinion is a big red flag all the way around. I probably wouldn't think so if I hadn't had a dangerous kid in my own house--that I kept trying to tell myself wasn't as bad as I thought--but I did live the experience and sadly if you think it's is bad.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am sorry you are having to cope with this. Our kids do like to scare us sometimes, don't they?

    My gfgbro and the cousin who was right between us in age both liked fire. But by 13 they CERTAINLY were past the point where what you describe would happen. They were too sure my dad would not only yell, ground and lecture them but would also have them pay for the repairs and materials involved, AND dad would have our uncle talk to them. And the uncle would still be lecturing them about it even now, almost 3 decades later. Uncle was a volunteer fireman AND on his company's fire and rescue team - uncle did a lot of the training of younger people, even in his volunteer squad.

    I know your husband wants to brush this off, but it was a serious warning sign at the least, in my opinion. When the fire ends up causing that much damage the boy needs the firebug course and to be watched like a hawk.

    You may find out that insurance will not pay unless charges are filed against your son. And depending on the policy (and the bank that holds your mortgage) the insurance co or bank may have the say in whether charges are filed - not you or husband having the say.

    I know that insurance can insist of charges, or alert the mortgage bank to the problem and the bank can bring charges with-o even consulting you. At least it could happen years ago. I only know because I helped out in a mortgage loan section of a bank when my section was slow.
  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Not Miss KT, but Hubby apparently had a fire issue. His mom said he put matches in the swamp cooler pads when he was little. As an adult, after we were married, he was playing with one of those barbeque lighters in Walgreens, and it wouldn't light when he clicked it. He put it next to his ear, clicked...and lit his ear on fire. I fell down in the middle of the aisle laughing hysterically. He didn't think it was funny.
  10. klmno

    klmno Active Member


    OMG! If that had happened to difficult child the first time he played with fire, he might not be where he is today. I would have cracked up, too!