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Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program (JAFFA)

Helping children & families to develop fire safe skills

The Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program is a free, confidential education and support program for children between the ages of 6-16 that have been involved in fire lighting.

The program was started in 1989 by a small group of firefighters in response to an increasing demand for support from parents, schools and agencies. The firefighters involved in the program all volunteer their own time to assist families.


JAFFA Referral Form

JAFFA Referral Form


What the program involves

The Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program assists children to understand fire behaviour, fire safety and the legal implications of arson. It also alerts them to the dangers of fire play and the long term consequences of sustaining serious burns.

The program is delivered by a specially trained firefighter in the family home. The firefighter conducts an interview with the child and the parents and this assists them to understand the child’s fire lighting behaviour. The firefighter then delivers an education session according to the child’s age, maturity and involvement with fire. It may include watching a DVD, viewing photographs that illustrate the consequences of inappropriate fire use, developing a home fire safety plan or discussing fire behaviour and peer pressure. The program is usually 2 to 3 hours in duration.

Parental involvement in the program is important. Parents and families play an important role in creating a supportive environment for their children to learn and adopt new behaviours. Involving the family reduces the focus on the child and assists the parents to understand and role model fire safe behaviour.

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Is my child suitable for the program?

Most children will show a curiosity towards fire and this is a normal developmental phase. In situations where a child’s curiosity develops into playing with matches or lighters or experimenting with fire in unsafe places, and parental intervention has been ineffective, the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program can be of assistance. The Program is suitable for children between the ages of 6-16.

The program is generally not suitable when a child’s fire lighting is part of a pattern of antisocial or criminal behaviour, or if it’s related to psychopathology. Our firefighters are not trained as social workers or psychologists.

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Why is my child playing with fire?

There are many reasons why children light fires. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • a fascination with or curiousity about the colour, light and energy released by flames;
  • attention seeking behaviour that may be in response to a change in a family situation or pressures resulting from learning or social difficulties;
  • peer pressure;
  • low self-esteem;
  • anger and revenge associated with family or friendship problems; or malicious or mischievous behaviour in response to family or social difficulties.
  • Younger children tend to light fires in and around their homes. They do not usually mean to cause damage and do not understand how dangerous fires can be.

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What are the signs my child is playing with fire?

  • Missing matches or lighters.
  • Matches or lighters in your child’s room, pockets or bag.
  • Burnt items such as paper or garden rubbish.
  • Burn marks on toys, clothes or bedding.
  • Burn marks in the house or cubby house.
  • Smell of something burnt.
  • Strong interest in fire or continually talking about fire.

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What you can do

  • Supervise your children at all times, especially around fire, cooking and heating.
  • Teach your children that fire is a tool not a toy, outlining:
    • fire is used for cooking and heating;
    • fire is dangerous - it can cause lifelong injuries and maybe even kill; and
    • all fires (even small ones) can spread quickly.
  • Teach your children about fire safety and the potential consequences of fire.
  • Remove the temptation. Lock away matches and lighters just as you lock away medicines, cleaning fluids and other dangerous household substances.
  • Store flammable liquids and combustible materials properly. Never place them close to an ignition source.
  • Teach your children to show you any unattended matches and lighters they find. You can then dispose of them and reward their honesty.
  • Lead by example. At all times stress the importance of being responsible with fire.
  • Install photoelectric smoke alarms in your home and maintain them. Only working smoke alarms save lives. Test the battery monthly and change the battery yearly or install hardwired smoke alarms.
  • Ensure that everyone in your home knows what to do if there is a fire. Develop a fire escape plan for your family and practice it. This is an important family strategy as it takes the focus away from the child and involves the whole family.
  • Call the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness program for help and assistance.

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Facts about child fire lighting

  • The majority of child firelighters are boys.
  • There are many underlying reasons as to why children light fires.
  • 80% of fires lit by children involve the inappropriate use of cigarette lighters and matches.
  • Most child firelighters come from single parent families.
  • It is estimated that children 16 years of age and under are responsible for a large percentage of fires with an undetermined cause.
  • Most child firelighters DO NOT understand the dangers and possible consequences of fire.
  • Many children who play with fire do get hurt, and in some cases die.

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Impact of the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness program

The Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program has had a significant impact on families and the community.

Many families who have undertaken the program have contacted DFES to report the positive effect JAFFA has had in achieving an improved attitude in their children.

"DFES’s Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness program has made a huge difference to the young man in our foster care……..Our foster child told us that he was fascinated with fire, for us living in a bush land area caused us great concern. As a result of the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Support Officer, our foster child is now very aware of the dangers of fire. We feel that the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness program is an extremely worthwhile and valuable community asset which has had a huge influence on our foster sons life." - The Floyds

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Further Information

If you would like to enrol your child in the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness program or would like further information please contact the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Coordinator on (08) 9395 9488 or email jaffa@dfes.wa.gov.au.

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