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Poughkeepsie….The Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response recently launched the Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Response and Education (J-FIRE) Program, a comprehensive, non-punitive approach to addressing the problem of juvenile fire setting through early identification, assessment, education, and intervention in an effort to protect lives and property. The J-FIRE program utilizes a collaborative approach consisting of teams of trained local law enforcement, professional firefighters, probation officers and mental health clinicians to identify and address juvenile fire setting behavior in order to increase safety for children and their families. Program services are available to youth between the ages of 3 and 17 who reside, attend school, or exhibit fire setting behavior in Dutchess County.
“Dutchess County is proud to partner with our local service agencies, fire and police departments and municipalities to provide this critical service which will help to address juvenile fire setting behavior before a tragedy occurs. This program is crucial to identifying the warning signs that will help to prevent fires while also helping to assist children and their families increase fire safety at home,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, since 2008, more than 53,000 fires were set by juveniles across the country, resulting in 90 deaths, 910 civilian injuries, and $279 million in property loss. J-FIRE uses an evidence-based assessment process that helps determine the level of risk, as well as educational strategies for children and their families to prevent fire setting. The program also includes educational life safety and fire survival skills to help reduce fire risks at home through the identification of potential fire hazards.
Anyone can make a J-FIRE referral, including parents, guardians, school guidance counselors and social workers. If an individual suspects a child is exhibiting fire setting behavior, they should contact 845-486-3994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. An Intervention Specialist will contact them within 24 hours to set up an appointment. However, for emergency referrals, individuals are advised to call 911.
Dutchess County Legislator and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Kenneth Roman said, “The J-FIRE Program is a life-saving mechanism that not only protects Dutchess County residents from potential harm but educates children on the potential risks and damage caused by firesetting. As a law enforcement officer, I strongly advocate for the use of this program because it proactively engages with our youth to steer them away from actions that can cause injury to themselves and their loved ones.”
Last year, the Dutchess County Legislature approved an intermunicipal agreement between several County departments and agencies, including the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the Dutchess County Departments of Emergency Response, Law, Probation & Community Corrections, Behavioral & Community Health, Community & Family Services, the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office, Astor Services for Children and Families, towns of East Fishkill, Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie Police departments, City of Poughkeepsie Police, and the Fairview and LaGrange Fire departments to provide J-FIRE Program services. The program is guided by a committee of fire, law enforcement, mental hygiene and human services officials. Nearly 40 officials have taken part in J-FIRE training at the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response.
Dutchess County Fire Coordinator David Alfonso said, “Prior to the J-FIRE Program, there was no program in Dutchess County to address and prevent child fire setting. J-FIRE utilizes a multi-agency approach to address this type of behavior before the loss of property and/or life can occur. The program has already received several referrals since it began a few months ago. We look forward to offering future J-FIRE trainings to expand our reach in Dutchess County.”
The Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response will facilitate another J-FIRE training later this month. J-FIRE informational brochures are available in schools and at local fire departments throughout Dutchess County to assist parents, caregivers and school administrators. Learn more about Dutchess County’s J-FIRE Program here or call 845-486-2080.