The goal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Youth Fire Intervention Program is to teach fire responsibility to young people who misuse fire or who have started dangerous or unsupervised fires. The program teaches youth how to be proactive in protecting their family, Tribal community, and natural resources from wildfire.
The Youth Fire Intervention Program uses a multi-disciplinary coalition and restorative justice-driven fire prevention, safety, and survival curriculum approach to address the needs of the program participants.
How It Works
- Establishes a community coalition of Tribal agencies to address the needs of youth.
- Conducts training to identify and assess the severity of a youth's fire-setting behavior.
- Offers a diversion program that requires youth to complete community service projects to earn back the trust of their Tribal community.
- Educates youth about fire safety, fire survival, and the serious legal, financial, and social costs of setting fires in Indian Country.
Benefits for Communities
- Economic: Reduces the threat of wildfire which lowers the loss of life and damage to Tribal property and natural resources.
- Cultural: Instills respect for ceremonial traditions and sites and helps protect sacred lands.
- Livable Communities: Provides communities that allow people to live, learn, work and play that are safe from wildfires.
Understanding Youth Fire-Setting
The motivations behind fire setting behaviors are as diverse as the communities in which they occur. Whether acting out of curiosity, boredom, peer pressure, anger, or in response to a family or personal crisis, youth should understand the devastating consequences on their communities when fires get out of control.
Starting a Youth Fire Intervention Program
Starting a Youth Fire Intervention Program begins with gaining Tribal Council support for the initiation of the program. A Regional WUI/Wildfire Prevention Specialist begins by meeting with the Tribal and/or BIA fire programs to discuss fire occurrence data, desired outcomes, and potential coalition partners.
Once the Tribal Council signs a resolution, a Youth Fire Intervention Program Coordinator will be dispatched to work with Tribal representatives to implement the program. The Youth Fire Intervention Program Coordinator will:
- Act as a facilitator during coalition meetings.
- Provide initial training to community members about the needs of youth misusing fire and the tools available to help them.
- Train prevention specialists to screen youth to determine if they were involved in experimental fire setting or if the behaviors were a symptom of more serious personal or mental health issues that will require referral to and assistance from one of the coalition partners.
Referring Youth to the Program
The fire department, police, courts, probation officers, behavior health specialists, or schools may make mandatory referrals to the program for youth engaged in misusing fire.
Parents may also voluntarily refer their children to help instill the seriousness of fire-setting behavior in their child.
The Coalition Approach
Youth who engage in fire setting behavior often have a multitude of personal and/or family issues. A coalition of professionals who already work with youth can help fire personnel identify the underlying problem that causes the fire setting behavior and assist in developing appropriate intervention strategies.
The coalition may include members from the BIA Wildland Fire Prevention team, Behavioral Health, Child Protective Services, local Fire Department, Juvenile Court and Prosecution, Law Enforcement and cultural and recreational resources. All members of the coalition are devoted to the idea that children can and must receive basic fire safety and survival education. Depending on youth screening results, additional referrals may be made outside the coalition to mental health professionals and protective services.
Youth Fire Intervention Program Training
The Youth Fire Intervention Program hosts a two-day course to train fire personnel and community partners on how to coordinate the program for their Tribe.
The training consists of:
- Understanding and identifying the youth fire setting problem.
- Collecting fire incident data including the time, location, and objects burned in the fire.
- Practice interviewing youth and parents.
- Learning how to use a screening instrument to make referrals and develop safety and supervision plans.
- Providing educational intervention.
- Implementing community service projects.
Participants will receive a “How-to” manual with data collection forms, the BIA Youth Fire Screening tool and several age and culturally appropriate educational intervention curricula.