Children playing with fire cause hundreds of deaths and injuries each year. In fact, 80 percent of fires started by children resulted from the unsupervised use of matches or lighters. Preschoolers and kindergartners are the most likely to start these fires but this age group pays dearly to learn the lessons of fire safety. According to the New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital, children under the age of 5 are twice as likely to die in a fire as other age groups.

Fire Safety and Kids: Statistics and Overview

Most responsible adults know that kids shouldn’t play with fire. While this time tested advice seems obvious to everyone, curious kids often discover a way to get access to heating sources, such as lighters, matches, and irons. Parents don’t often understand the true danger of fire or heating sources. In residential housing fires caused by “playing with a heating source”, children under the age of 14 are approximately 93 percent of deaths.

Children absorb most of the damage caused by fires because they cannot defend themselves. Even worse, the U.S. Fire Administration notes the tendency of kids to start fires in “hiding places”, like closets or underneath the bed. Starting a fire in an enclosed space increases the risk of smoke inhalation and burns. Kids as young as 3 can be educated on fire safety and awareness will greatly increase your child’s chances of surviving a fire.

Residential Fire Safety Tips

This section will quickly go over fire safety basics EVERYONE needs to follow regardless of whether or not they have children in their home. A lack of basic fire safety is one of the leading causes of death for children in fires. While 90 percent of homes currently have smoke detectors, more than 43 percent of fires that killed children occurred in homes without working smokes alarms.

  • Install smoke alarms and test them regularly to ensure proper operating function.
  • Keep electronic devices away from pools of water, such as baths and sinks.
  • Have an escape plan in the event of a fire.
  • Annually check the wiring on all electronics for wear and fraying that might cause an electrical fire.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher somewhere in the house, preferably in a place that’s immediately accessible to the kitchen.

Kids Fire Safety Advice

Most adults know they should stop kids from playing with fire. However, teaching children to act responsibly with fire can be a little more challenging. Help kids learn responsible behavior with fire by following these simple tips:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. If you ever see a child recklessly playing with a heating source of any kind, politely request the child stop and inform their parents.
  • Only use heating sources with child resistance measures, like child proof lighters.
  • If you have kids, be on the lookout for signs that your child is playing with heating sources. Used matches or empty lighters are very good indicator.
  • When dressing kids for sleep, avoid oversized shirts or anything made from 100 percent cotton.
  • Discuss general fire safety with children, such as escape routes and responsible behavior.
  • Make sure any children in your home know how to contact emergency services. It’s also helpful to discuss which situations are severe enough to call for outside help.
  • Don’t stop with just one discussion. Fire safety is a lifelong responsibility that kids can easily forget. Make sure to hold a yearly discussion about the dangers of fire.

Fire Safety Videos

For Ages 2 to 10:

For the Whole Family:


New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital
U.S. Fire Safety Administration
University of Michigan Health System

Further Reading on Fire Safety

Center for Disease Control
American Burn Association