The human fascination with fire is a universal and timeless part of our being. Since the days of our earliest ancestors, we have spent countless nights gazing into this glowing and dancing enigma, warmed by its presence and lost in its constantly changing and vibrant displays. We have watched collectively for centuries as fire appears to bring life into anything it touches before slowly enveloping and bringing it back to the earth in its smallest components. Indeed, fire can be seen as the absolute earliest form of entertainment, a predecessor to the modern television, superior in that it never once featured a re-run. But one unfortunate fact throughout our history has been that the youngest of our children appear to be the most curious and fascinated with this highly unstable arrangement of gases, and that is why we encourage parents to begin educating their children at an early age about the dangers of playing with fire.
Children are helpless to the whims of their imagination and curiosity. This is a totally healthy and important part of growing up, and the search for knowledge about life should never be discouraged, only guided. The sad truth is that fire is the leading cause of death for children in residential buildings. 93% of all fire-related deaths involve children under the age of 10, while 52% of these are children 5 years old and under, and almost 40% of all fire-related injuries involve cases where the cause of the fire was stated as “playing with a heat source.” The importance of fire safety should be drilled into all children at an early age, but you should never be afraid to dig around their rooms for matches, lighters or other flammable objects, since they are most likely to run their experiments with fire in areas you may not be looking, like under the bed or in their closets, and you may not even know until the room is ablaze if you’re not actively looking for warning signs. Be consistent in reinforcing fire safety to your children, but remember that it’s simple curiosity and not outright defiance that will ultimately lead to disobedience. Teach your kids to let you know when they come across lighters or matches and reward them for their honesty. This will help to curb their inquisitiveness without making them feel as if they’re missing out on some great discovery. At the same time, it’s important to show a willingness to indulge your kids from time to time in the things that interest them, and a camping trip is a great opportunity to demonstrate proper fire safety techniques in a fun and firsthand environment.
You should already have a fire escape plan in place at your home, and you should definitely seek to get your younger children involved in the process. Make them feel like important members in your family’s fire detection and protection squad, and they will be less likely to engage in any secretive flammable behaviors. Make sure your children understand that although it is a beautiful and fascinating thing, fire can easily injure and kill people. The instinct for self-preservation is perhaps the only one more powerful than human curiosity, and we should use this to our advantage when discussing fire safety in the home.
Many school programs do a great job in getting this message across, but it’s important that your child knows how to dial 9-11 and to supply your address in the event of an emergency. Never forget to pass along the wisdom of the “stop, drop and roll” maneuver, and set off your fire alarms from time to time so your child becomes accustomed to the sound it makes and knows what to do when they hear it (This is also a great time to practice the fire escape plan and your little one’s role in it).
By incentivizing and guiding the curiosity of our kids, we can build safer and more prepared families in the future, hopefully reducing these statistics to a level that allows for even more family fire- safe camping adventures.