PG15. Fire Setting

For a record of all amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.
Caption: Fire Setting


Fireplay and firesetting behaviour by a child must always be taken seriously, because it can lead to them suffering significant harm:

  • There is a very real risk of possible death and injury; and
  • When a child sets fires, it may indicate that they are at risk of, or experiencing, serious mental or emotional harm (see Recognising Abuse and Neglect Procedure).

Significant harm is defined in Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure, Concept of significant harm as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and / or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful there needs to be compulsory intervention by child protection agencies in the life of the child and their family.


Consideration should be given to undertaking a common assessment and / or making a referral to local authority children's social care and the police, in line with Referral and Assessment Procedure, depending on the seriousness of the firesetting incident/s.


Several factors may lead to firesetting:

  • Curiosity;
  • A cry for help;
  • Lack of parental control;
  • Serious emotional disturbance, which may be related to abuse and neglect.


Whilst all groups of children may become involved in firesetting, boys, children in one-parent families, and looked after children are over-represented.


Issues for consideration in an assessment include the child's development needs, stressful environment factors, the degree of guidance and boundaries the child is receiving or is willing to accept, basic care and ensuring safety (e.g. where a young child can access matches and lighters).


All professionals should discuss their concerns with their line manager and their agency's designated safeguarding children professional.


The London Fire Brigade's Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Scheme is available by referral from the family or professionals. The scheme takes an educational approach with children and their parents, and can help identify the cause of the behaviour. It works across the spectrum from curiosity fireplay in young children to arson in older children.