According to the Burn Institute, "More than 300 people are killed and nearly one-billion dollars in property is destroyed by fires set by children. Over three percent of the victims are the children themselves." Recognizing these alarming statistics, the Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) in Little Rock teamed up with firefighters, law enforcement officials, and mental health and social services volunteers throughout the state to create the Pulaski County Youth Firesetter Taskforce (PCYFT).

A registered Fire Corps program since 2006, the Taskforce consists of eight members who commit endless hours year-round to reach out to youth who show tendencies for fire play. After identifying these individuals, the Taskforce provides education and/or referrals to mental health care officials with a follow-up in fire safety education for both the child and his or her family. Taskforce members meet once a month to discuss the status of all firesetters in the Pulaski County Area and to develop the best possible way to effectively educate children through the program. Education is conducted through various mediums, such as the ACH’s Fire Safety House.

The PCYFT has been working on various projects throughout the year. Partnering with the Burn Center, various schools, and Pulaski County fire departments, the Taskforce recently spearheaded a study to compare the effectiveness of voice-recorded smoke alarms to that of the conventional beeping alarms. Other studies have shown that children do not respond adequately to standard beeping smoke alarms. Voice-recorded smoke alarms operate like custom smoke alarms; however, instead of beeping, the parent’s voice warns the children of danger.

Another accomplishment of the Taskforce is the development of a Youth Firesetter Quick Reference Card. The card is a tool any fire department can use if they encounter a child who has been playing with fire. A firefighter can grab this card out of any apparatus on the fireground to find all the information they need to refer the child to the PCYFT for immediate help. Originally designed for the Pulaski County area, the Quick Reference Card has now been given to all Pulaski County fire departments as well as 67 other departments throughout Arkansas. A poster presentation on this card will be presented at the American Burn Association’s mid-year meeting in November.

In addition to the voice-recorded smoke alarm study and Quick Reference Card, the Taskforce has been successful in getting the sale of novelty lighters banned in the North Little Rock area. Recently two boys, only 15 months and two years old, died in Russellville, a town about an hour northwest of Little Rock. It was reported that the young boys set fire to their apartment while playing with a motorcycle-shaped lighter – a novelty lighter. In an interview to the Arkansas News Bureau, Taskforce member and North Little Rock Fire Marshall Mark Shoemaker said fear of tragedies like the deadly Russellville fire are what prompted him to campaign to get the North Little Rock City Council to ban the novelty lighters. The Taskforce is currently working to expand the injunction throughout the entire county and all of Little Rock.

Nathan Travis, a Little Rock Firefighter and Youth Firesetter Intervention and Burn Prevention Coordinator for the Burn Center at ACH, commented on how much support the Taskforce has received since its inception. "All of our funding and support for this Taskforce has come from the Burn Center and would not be possible without their continued help. They provide us with all the fire safety material, smoke alarms, and meeting space to get the job done."

For more information on the Pulaski County Youth Firesetter Taskforce, please contact Nathan Travis at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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