SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — The state’s top firefighter wants to use Arson Awareness Week this year to focus on understanding and stopping youths from setting fires.

The office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal announced the theme of this year’s event to be “Understanding and mitigating youth fire-setting issues,” stated a news release from the office.

Youths setting fires is a major issue, according to the United States Fire Administration. Fire misuse in children can stem from simple curiosity all the way to more serious behavioral health conditions, such as impulse control or emotional regulation.

The National Fire Protection Association reports there was an annual average of 52,260 intentionally set structure fires in the five-year period from 2014 to 2018. These fires caused an estimated 400 civilian deaths, 950 civilian injuries, and $815 million in direct property damage yearly.

“I encourage parents and other family members to stress the importance of not playing with matches and leaving lighters alone. Kids are curious and talking to them about why they shouldn’t play with these items can reduce the risk for an accidental fire that could impact more than just your family,” said Illinois State Fire Marshal James A. Rivera. “I also encourage departments to reach out to the OSFM if they need a Youth Firesetter Interventionist and have members attend our classes we offer to become Certified Interventionists.”

A statewide Arson Hotline, (800) 252-2947, has been established so that citizens may anonymously provide information about a suspicious fire that has occurred or may occur.

Information about the Youth Firesetter Intervention Program can be found here.