The F.I.R.S.T. Process
After an incident of firesetting, juveniles are referred to the Fire Intervention Referral Safety Team in a number of ways. Referrals are mandatory when the police, courts, probation, fire companies, and schools encounter a juvenile who is firesetting. These agencies have all signed a memo of understanding stating that they will refer juvenile firesetters to the program. When referred through the legal system, the program is often a requirement of probation. Voluntary referrals also take place. Often times parents will bring their child into the fire station to show them the seriousness of firesetting, and they will be referred to the program. Also, when schools encounter juvenile firesetting that occurs outside of school grounds, they may report it.
Once a juvenile is referred to the program, the Deputy Fire Marshal conducts an initial intake interview with the child and their parent(s). During the intake interview, the parents and children are interviewed separately. It is at this time that the child is assessed for risk. The children are put into one of three categories: little risk, definite risk, and extreme risk. The next step for children who are assessed at little risk is to attend the next firesetting class. Children evaluated as definite or extreme risk are referred to counseling as well as the next firesetting class. These children most likely have other issues in addition to firesetting, and without getting help with those issues, the firesetting most likely won't stop, either. In addition to being evaluated for risk, descriptive characteristics for firesetting are noted. These characteristics, in addition to the risk assessment, are used to determine the proper course of intervention. The child usually falls into one of four categories: curiosity, crisis, delinquent, or pathological. Three areas make up these categories: profile, family/social dynamics and firesetting behaviors.
Fire Safety Class
Once the initial intake is completed, the children attend an age-appropriate fire safety class. Children seven and younger come into the fire station and are given one-on-one fire safety training. Older children attend a three-hour class on a Saturday morning. Once there, these children are split into two groups: 12 and under, and 13 and over. Parents are also required to attend this class. While the children are in their class, the parents attend counseling led by a licensed social worker from the Human Development Center. At the end of the class the children and parents sign a contract stating that they will work with each other prevent recidivism.
To evaluate the program, follow-ups are conducted three and nine months after going through the program. Phone interviews are preferred, but if they aren't an option, the survey is mailed to the parent's address.