FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 13, 2010
SCHUMER, CASSANO REVEAL: IN FACE OF SEVERAL FIRES STARTED BY CHILDREN, FDNY PROGRAM FOR JUVENILE ARSON PREVENTION DANGEROUSLY UNDERFUNDED; CALL ON FEDS TO BOLSTER PROGRAM
Despite Recent Wave of Fires Started by Kids, Funding Levels for FDNY Program Limited to a Single Staff Member; NYC Doing Its Part, But Budget Woes Demand Feds Support FDNY's Application
Participants in Program Have 0% Recidivism Rate; Yet Despite Successes the Program's Funding Doesn't Nearly Match the Need
Schumer: Makes Direct Appeal to DHS Secretary Napolitano for Supplemental Funding to Support NYC's Efforts
United States Senator Charles E. Schumer is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to the Fire Department of New York for the Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program in the wake of several deadly fires started by children in recent weeks. Joined by FDNY Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, Schumer made a direct appeal to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to deliver the much needed funding to continue and expand the program that provides free intervention services for at-risk children who show a dangerous interest in fire.
“Now more than ever it is vitally important that the FDNY has the resources to continue offering what is truly a life saving program,” said Senator Schumer. “While still impressionable, we need to be able to intervene and educate children with an inappropriate interest in fire of the dangers to themselves and the community when playing with fire.”
On March 12, a fourteen year-old boy was arrested for starting a fire in Brooklyn that left one man dead and two firefighters injured. On Feb. 27, six people were injured in a fire in the Bronx caused by two children playing with a lighter. On Feb. 15, nine people were injured at 785 Pelham Parkway North in the Bronx caused by a child playing with matches. All three of those children have been or could soon be referred to the Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program. On Feb. 16, an 11-year-old boy was killed on West 24th St. in Brooklyn after he set a fire in an apartment there.
"Our statistics show that there is a zero recidivism rate among juveniles that have participated in this program. More funding will allow us to reach more children and families - and keep even more New Yorkers safe from fire," Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said. "Sen. Schumer has been a great friend to the Department and we’re proud to have his support on this issue."
Last October, FDNY submitted an application to the Department of Homeland Security for a $478,000 grant to help expand the Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program. This money would fund two additional, full-time, specially-trained Marshals to the unit to help even more families. Currently, the unit has one full-time Marshal funded by the city budget.
Since 2005, at least 25 civilians and have died in fires set by juveniles. In the past two decades, three FDNY firefighters have been killed in fires set by children.
Schumer personally lobbied Secretary Napolitano on the FDNY’s application to fund the FDNY’s Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program and urged her to approve the funding in the face of the recent fires that appear to have been started by children.
Established in 1988 by the Bureau of Fire Investigation, the program is designed to identify at-risk children and address the behavior and any underlying issues that may cause the behavior. Fire Marshals contact the family and arrange for a home or office visit and use age-specific materials to help the child, including DVDs, role play, fire safety education and an evaluation of the household.