It was a beautiful day to Walk the Zoo at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Michigan with Maranda, Priority Health and Jake The Fire Safety Dog. Over 100 children and families had a fantastic day of fun while learning how be active and stay healthy.

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Another highlight of the morning was presenting Maranda with a letter of appreciation from the United States Fire Administration.  She was congratulated on the 20th anniversary of providing families with free fun at Park Parties and for launching and promoting the Fire Is Everyone’s Fight (tm) national fire safety campaign over the past two years here in West Michigan.







Each year in this country, fires set by children are responsible for more than 100 fire deaths, nearly 1,000 painful burn injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss, according to the United States Fire Administration. Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 49,300 fires involved children misusing fire occurred throughout the United States. Children are often the victims in these fires. While curiosity about fire is natural, fires set by children are dangerous and deadly.

The danger of fire is greater than ever because of the high number of petroleum-based building materials. Fires burn quicker and hotter and smoke is more toxic than in the past because of these materials. In the hands of juveniles, fire can be deadly. Whether the child or adolescent was playing, experimenting or purposely setting fires, firesetting is extremely costly.

The misuse of fire has many variables including age, motivation for firesetting behavior, type of fires set, ignition materials used to set the fire, and the child’s understanding and limitations of fire. Firesetting behavior is usually “a cry for help” and may be a symptom of a problem manifested through stress and crisis in their lives. The stress or crisis experienced by juveniles may include abuse, bullying, a recent separation or divorce of parents, home foreclosure, moving to a new community, or the death of a pet or loved one.


 Why Do Kids Set Fires?

Youth firesetting or the misuse of fire by children isn’t necessarily arson. The best way to understand why children set fires is to look at their motivations for firesetting. For most young kids, the motive is experimentation and curiosity. Motives can involve curiosity, thrill-seeking, willful intent to cause destruction, or by children who suffer from mental or emotional problems.

There are four common factors that influence firesetting behavior among children and adolescents. These factors impact all types of firesetting and include:

  1. Easy access to ignition materials. Easy access to ignition materials often proves deadly for children who start fires. In many homes where a child has been involved in starting a fire, the child easily discovered the ignition source or already knew where it was located and how to obtain it.
  2. Lack of adequate supervision. The lack of adequate supervision is a factor that can influence all ages of firesetting among children and adolescents. Parents are often shocked to discover their child has engaged in firesetting over a prolonged period of time.
  3. A failure to practice fire safety. A failure to practice fire safety is a factor that often affects children and their parents in the following ways:
  4. Young children often lack understanding of the dangers associated with firesetting and safety rules about fire.
  5. Older children and adolescents may not have received school-based fire safety education about the dangers of the inappropriate use of fire, penalties for such behavior, and direction on what to do if a fire occurs.
  6. Parents or caregivers may not be aware of the significance of youth firesetting, appropriate fire safety education, penalties, or what actions to take in the event a fire occurs. They may not be aware of local youth firesetting prevention and intervention programs.
  7. Easy access to information on the Internet. Information regarding firesetting, designing explosives, and how to do tricks with fire is a problem that demands attention. Technology has made explicit media available to youths on many dangerous and often illegal activities. They are able to experiment with fire or incendiary materials and instantaneously post results for the world to see and oftentimes replicate.

Parents, caregivers, and public educators, whether they are from the fire department or the school system, can build an informed foundation by teaching fire safety at an early age. Teach children of all ages that fires, even small ones, can spread quickly.


Myths and Facts Concerning Children and Fire 

Myth: A child can control a small fire
Fact: Most fires start small, but can become uncontrollable quickly.

Myth: It is normal for children to play with fire.
Fact: It is not normal for children to play with fire. Curiosity about fire is normal. Use of fire without an adult’s knowledge, approval, or supervision is dangerous.

Myth: Firesetting is a phase children will outgrow.
Fact: Firesetting is not a phase. If a child is not taught fire safety, the firesetting can get out of control easily. It is a dangerous behavior.

Myth: If you burn a child’s hand, he/she will stop setting fires.
Fact: Purposely burning a child’s hand is child abuse and is against the law. The reason behind the firesetting must be discovered and addressed.

Myth: If you take a child to the burn unit to see burn survivors, he/she will stop misusing fire.
Fact: Going to the burn unit only instills fear, and does not teach a child anything about fire safety. More importantly, we need to be sensitive toward burn survivors who are trying to recover emotionally and physically from their burns.

It is important to understand myths concerning children and fire. Children need to be educated about fire and have their motives understood so that proper interventions can be used to stop the firesetting behavior.

Teaching Children Fire Safety 

The most critical message for children to learn is that lighters and matches are tools, not toys! Parents and caregivers should never use lighters, matches, and fire for fun; children will mimic you, and when they do it unsupervised, tragic events can result. Praise your child for practicing responsible behavior and showing respect for fire. Set a good example for safe use of fire.

  • Always supervise young children.
  • Never leave lighters or matches within reach of children. Keep lighters and matches out of reach in high, locked cabinets.
  • Use child-resistant lighters, but remember that they are not child proof.
  • Instruct young children to inform an adult if they find lighters or matches.

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire & Safety reminds you if you suspect your child is setting fires, you are not the only parent ever to face this problem. Contact your local fire department immediately or visit for a list of youth fire prevention programs in the greater Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas.


As summer draws to a close, it’s time to head back to school, meet new friends and say hello to fall.  Just like teachers, books, and homework go together with the new school year, safety education should be a priority for every family.

The National Fire Protection Association and E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire & Safety offer these tips to play it safe!

bus Bus Safety

While waiting for the bus, take five giant steps back from the curb until the bus has stopped completely.

  • Inside the bus, stay seated at all times.
  • Keep your arms, hands and head inside the bus.
  • Never throw anything about of the bus window.
  • Always hold on the bus handrails when you are getting on or off the bus so you don’t fall.
  • Be careful that clothing, book bags, and key rings don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
  • When exiting the bus, go to the closest sidewalk or side of the road and take five giant steps away from the bus.
  • If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver.  If you bend over to pick it up, the bus driver may not be able to see you.

walk Safely Walking to School

Children under age 10 should never cross a street without a grown-up.

  • Choose a safe route to school.  Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings.
  • When crossing the street, stop at the curb or edge of the road.
  • Look left, then right, then left again for moving cars before crossing.
  • Keep looking left and right until you are safely across the street – and remember to walk, not run.
  • Follow all traffic signals and markings.
  • Don’t enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs.  Drivers might not be able to see you.
  • Never wear head phones or talk on a cell phone when crossing the street.

bike  Bicycle Safety

If you are old enough to ride alone, plan a safe route to school and have a grown-up ride with you the first few times.

  • Children under 10 shouldn’t ride on the road without a grown-up.
  • Be sure that your helmet fits.  It should sit even on top of the head – not rocking in any direction – and always fasten the safety strap.
  • Learn the proper hand signals and use them when you turn or stop.
  • Walk, do not ride your bike across the street.
  • Come to a complete stop before entering driveways, paths, or sidewalks, then look left, right and left again for bikes, cars or pedestrians heading your way.
  • Do not ride at night.

car  Car Safety

If you are riding to school in a car, the safest place to be if you are 12 years old or younger is in the back seat buckled up safely.  Remember, you should be in a booster seat until you are eight years old and 80 pounds.

firedrillFire Safety

And last, but not least, this is a great time to review and practice your home fire escape plan and prepare children for the first fire drill of the new school year.

When the fire alarm activates:

  • Stop what you are doing and immediately exit the building. Remain quiet and listen for further instructions from a teacher or over the public address system.
  • Once you are outside, go quickly to your meeting place for roll call.
  • Always know 2 ways out of any room (like a door and window) in case one exit is blocked by smoke or fire.
  • Never go back inside – Get Out and Stay Out.

The #1 item students need when they return to school is an abundance of safety knowledge. It is important for parents to stay up-to-date on the proper safety precautions and share this information with children to keep them safe at home, the mall, library or school throughout the year.

Campus Fire Safety

Many college-related fires result from a general lack of knowledge about fire safety. Since 2000, 86 fatal fires have occurred on U.S. college campuses, in Greek housing, or in off-campus housing within three miles of the campus.

According to the United States Fire Administration, more than 80% of campus fire fatalities occur in off-campus housing. This has a direct impact on the prevention, planning and response activities for fire and emergency services departments located near colleges and universities.

Important fire facts 

  • On average, ten students die annually in campus related fires, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety.
  • Four out of five campus-related fire deaths occur in off-campus housing where approximately two-thirds of our students live.
  • Alcohol is a factor in many of these fire related deaths. Alcohol abuse impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.
  • An estimated 3,800 campus fires occur each year in the United States.
  • Cooking causes more than two-thirds of fire injuries at college campuses, followed by careless smoking, arson, unattended candles, and the overloading of extension cords and power strips.

Here are some fire safety tips that could save your life 

  • Select a residence hall or off campus housing that has smoke alarms and fire sprinklers. These mitigation devices reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 82%.
  • Cook only where permitted and never leave cooking unattended.
  • Don’t smoke. But if you must, only smoke outside of the building.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Never leave candles unattended, provide a one-foot circle of safety clear of anything that might come in contact with the candle like table clothes, curtains, or papers and put candles out after each use.
  • Always have and practice an escape plan.
  • Look for an alternate exit from every room whether at a party or in class.
  • If you must escape through smoke, Get Low and Go under the smoke toward an exit.

By following these tips, injuries and even deaths will be prevented. Fire Is Everyone’s Fight ™  Where You Live!


Pack up the family and get out of the house on Tuesday, August 5, for the 31st annual National Night Out. The goal of National Night Out is to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts, encourage police and community cooperation, and demonstrate neighborhood unity in fighting crime and deterioration.

On Tuesday night, August 5, residents are asked to lock their doors, turn on outside lights, and spend the evening outdoors on the porches, lawns, streets, or in parks with their neighbors. Many neighborhoods throughout West Michigan will be hosting a variety of special events.

One big event planned in Kent County Michigan is the South Kent Night Out Against Crime. It will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. at 1515 Eastport Drive SE in Grand Rapids, behind Peppino’s Restaurant. It will be a great time for the whole family with food, a Ronald McDonald magic show, motorcycle stunt team, mascots, the E.S.C.A.P.E. mobile training center, and more. Admission is free!

Jake The Fire Safety Dog, Crusier from Craig’s Cruiser McGruff the Crime Prevention Dog thanks to our friends at EPS Security, and Grandma On The Go, Joy from eightWest and WOOD TV 8 will all be on site to meet guests of the South Kent County National Night Out event.



Watch the announcement with Maranda, Jake The Fire Safety Dog and Firefighter Michael McLeieer live inside the E.S.C.A.P.E. smoke demonstration trailer at the Park Party yesterday in Battle Creek!



Trenten Dollaway of Battle Creek is the One Millionth person to go through the E.S.C.A.P.E. smoke demonstration trailer. He and his family won the grand prize to the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, free tickets to the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, free passes to Craig’s Cruisers fun center in Wyoming, Michigan, free haircuts courtesy of Coachlite Cutters Barber Shop in Portage, a free Meijer gas card thanks to our friends at Liberty Mutual Insurance, and gift card from EPS Security.  Free E.S.C.A.P.E. T-shirts and baseball caps were also very popular for Trenten and his family!


The E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety Program will recognize its one millionth child to learn about fire safety inside the Mobile Training Center in Battle Creek.

The E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety Program recognized its one millionth child to learn about fire safety inside the Mobile Training Center in Battle Creek on July 31st.