Juvenile fire-setting is a community problem. Firesetting affects not only the Fire Department, but the children, their families and the entire community in which they live. With this in mind, the Duluth Fire Department has taken the lead in developing a taskforce to combat this problem. The Fire Intervention Referral Safety Team is comprised of community agencies that work with children. Bringing these agencies together and exchanging information and ideas has resulted in substantial strides in reducing the number of juvenile-set fires. Participating agencies are Saint Louis County Probation & Social Services, Carlton County Probation and Social services, Hon. Judge Martin, County and City Attorneys, the Human Development Center, the Duluth Police, local clergy, and the public and private schools in our area.
At its inception in 2000, the program was called the Lakehead Juvenile Firesetter Task Force. In 2004 it changed its name to F.I.R.S.T. Marnie Grondahl is the Chairperson on the Advisory Board, which is made up of other members of the Duluth Fire Department, Fire Chief John Strongitham, Fire Marshal Erik Simonson, Duluth Police Arson Investigator Jim Christensen, and Arrowhead EMS President Karla McKenzie.
A Memo of Understanding which states to other agencies that it is required that they report juvenile set fires and how to do it was developed. It was signed by the various department heads and is kept on file.
F.I.R.S.T. is funded through various community organizations. The Duluth Fire Department financially supports F.I.R.S.T. through in-kind services from the Deputy Fire Marshal and support staff to manage the program. Other funding is provided through grants from the Miller-Dwan Foundation. The Human Development Center, together with the United Way, provides the parent group counselor. The space for the classes is an in-kind donation from the First United Methodist Church.
F.I.R.S.T. is a non-profit, community supported agency. Those who wish to contribute a private or public donation or volunteer services are encouraged to contact:
Marnie Grondahl, Deputy Fire Marshal
Duluth Fire Department
602 W 2nd Street
Duluth, MN 55802