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River Valley (Massachusetts) Juvenile Fire Intervention Coalition
Amesbury and Merrimac, Massachusetts

The River Valley Juvenile Fire Intervention Coalition is a nonprofit educational organization and is comprised of a consortium of professionals from the mental health, criminal justice, and fire service communities, dedicated to the identification and treatment of child and adolescent firesetting behavior.

The River Valley Juvenile Fire Intervention Program's Firesetter Intervention Response and Education (FIRE) curriculum is committed to the identification and treatment of firesetting behavior in the adolescent and juvenile environment from ages 3 to 18 and sometimes into adulthood when the mental health status of the individual is appropriate.

The FIRE curriculum started as a program to augment and enhance the former Massachusetts State Wide Coalition for Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Program and has evolved into a very unique and successful program that is now a stand-alone curriculum for identifying and treating the child and adolescent firesetter.

The FIRE program was developed with the added hope that a successful distinction could be realized between the traditional fire prevention programs currently being delivered to children in the schools, and the fire intervention programs that are offered to children and adolescents already involved in negative fire activities.

The FIRE curriculum's hands-on style of instruction is interesting and makes the students want to learn. Live demonstrations and participation focus on the child's individual interest in fire while matching the educational intervention with the level of risk. The intervention program shows participants ways to make better decisions and understand the consequences of their actions.

The FIRE program has an extremely low recidivism rate of 4 percent. This is due, in part, to the fact that we believe training should not focus solely on firesetting, but should also project a feeling of trust between the instructor and student. Listening is an important skill for the instructor as well as the student!

Before a child enters the FIRE program, a licensed mental health clinician and trained fire personnel, trained to NFPA 1035, determines the suitability of the child for this type of treatment and intervention through a screening.

Involvement in their own treatment creates a feeling of empowerment for the child. Classroom sessions including information on basic fire science, home-escape plans, home fire safety and prevention, the definition of arson, decisionmaking, consequences, parent/caregiver fire safety component, and the appropriate use of fire. An expanded lesson plan was recently developed exclusively with the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad for those youth involved in the use or creation of chemical-reaction devices and how it pertains to new laws for such devices within Massachusetts. The River Valley Program is currently the only program in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts piloting this new material.

Hands-on sessions include fire-extinguisher use (depending on the risk level and assessment by a licensed mental health professional), handling charged firehoses, understanding and using firefighter's gear, understanding, and implementing the lessons learned in the classroom about fire science, fire behavior, and firefighting.

The Amesbury Fire Department program is managed by Lieutenant Jim Kukene and the Merrimac Fire Department program is administered by Michael McLeieer. McLeieer is a contract instructor for the NFA's Youth Firesetting Prevention and Intervention course.