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#167623 - 02/23/09 03:06 AM My kids started a small fire today, without me
GrilledBison Offline
Stranger

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 22
Loc: PA
My very independent kids were outside this afternoon, playing freely with whatever they could find in the backyard (sticks, pinecones, leaves, pine needles, the neighborís plastic lawn chairs) when DD, age 8, ran into the house to let DW and I know that DS, age 6, had started a fire outside. I let DW take the first alarm on this one, but DW quickly sounded my name for a second alarm.

DW found DS by a flame about 1 foot high, which he doused with a bucket of snow. DS was red-faced, crying, upset about being caught and I think he was also upset by his success, which I donít think he was expecting.

Last summer, I had spent some time here and there with DD & DS looking for kindling, trying to light a fire with different methods (BlastMatch, Lite-My-Fire fire steel, magnifying glass, Fresnel lens, and matches), both at home on the back patio or the driveway, and at a campsite fire ring. We discussed air, fuel, & heat; where to build a fire; methods of extinguishing fires (water, smothering, disbursing or removing the fuel); checking to make sure they were out. These were small fires we worked onósmall enough to stamp out with a foot. We discussed safety each time, but apparently I needed to give both DS & complicit DD a refresher about having adult supervision.

Today, after I checked to make sure there was no material burning anymore, and after DS had calmed down a bit, DD, DS and I had a discussion about the fire. I learned:

1. They were cold, but didnít want to come in to warm up, so they decided to make a fire.
2. They chose a place to start the fire, on a concrete pad (which, decades ago, housed a brick fireplace, but was now just one course of bricks). They had defined a small area where the fuel and the fire would be by circling it with pinecones. This was not where we had practiced, but was similar.
3. They had constructed a windbreak with a found cardboard box, held in place by a rock DS put inside the box, and they placed it upwind.
4. They gathered dried grass for fuel.
5. They couldnít find a source of water outside, so they filled a bucket with snow from the only place in the entire yard where the snow hadnít melted and brought it next to the fire.
6. They chose the easiest method to start the fire, matches, and found them where they know I keep them, on my grill stand.
7. DS took one match out, and closed the matchbox.
8. DS was scared so he lightly dragged the match on the striker area.
9. DS saw that was not a big deal, so he did it harder and lit the match.
10. DS put it to the grass, and it caught, so DD smothered it with snow and came in to sound the alarm.
11. DS tried it again (persistent, eh?), and had a nice 1 foot flame by the time DW arrived on scene.

I conclude that I should pay attention to my son's requests to practice making fires. I had pushed his multiple requests off, saying we'd do it when we go camping this summer. He is showing a healthy interest, and we can certainly practice before the summer. I also will make my matches less accessible and talk to them about "what if" the fire gets out of control. Your comments?


Edited by GrilledBison (02/23/09 03:25 AM)

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#167625 - 02/23/09 03:34 AM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
Dan_McI Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 844
Loc: NYC
Sounds to me like your DS has at least a little bit of pyro-fascination in him, which is also found in some on these boards and many males of the human species.

Sounds like the next time he does it without supervision and gets caught it might be time for some discipline, if not already. What and when is of course your call as a parent. Otherwise, they seem to learn fast and did a commendable job.

The key to playing with fire is to not get so out of control so as to create damage to persons or property of value. The key is to not fear it too much, and to give it a healthy respect. A fine balance.

A level of comfort around fire helped me tonight, because of a few flames which I quickly and easily extinguished. But, I've also got some pyro-fascination.


Edited by Dan_McI (02/23/09 03:49 AM)

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#167626 - 02/23/09 03:47 AM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
Blast Offline
INTERCEPTOR
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 3760
Loc: TX
I like you kids. They did a lot right, just at too young of an age...

You did a good job at teaching them how to start fires, but it seems they need more experience putting OUT fires and a few lessons on how fires can get out of control real easily.

-Blast
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#167629 - 02/23/09 05:00 AM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: Blast]
GrilledBison Offline
Stranger

Registered: 09/06/07
Posts: 22
Loc: PA
In our experiments with fire last summer, we always started by getting a bucket of water.

I was actually impressed with their snow solution. The snow was icy, slushy; not powdery, light. DD put out their first experimental fire, then DS put out the second fire with it. I examined the scene, removed all remaining fuel, asked them what made them think it was out, and how they felt they could be sure. They had good answers. We also had rain earlier in the day, and everything around was wet.

I will continue to debrief DS. I think the "what if" method is best for getting him thinking about how things can get out of control; showing him the limitations of what he or I could do if it does; knowing how to keep it in control (limit fuel and air; put it out); and other ways to solve the initial problem of wanting to stay outside, but be warm, like KEEPING YOUR HAT ON!

I've also decided to de-emphasize fire fascination by spending some serious time with them doing other (non flame) experiments as well as working on map & compass skills; knots; and perhaps shelter building.




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#167631 - 02/23/09 05:38 AM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
Now they need the lessons in fire extinguishing and to be given the job of camp fire marshal.
The fire department here puts on a good course.

Nothing cures fascination like familiarity and responsibility.
_________________________
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#167639 - 02/23/09 11:44 AM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
Dan_McI Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 844
Loc: NYC
Originally Posted By: GrilledBison
I've also decided to de-emphasize fire fascination by spending some serious time with them doing other (non flame) experiments as well as working on map & compass skills; knots; and perhaps shelter building.


Once the fascination is there, it's tough to get rid of it. However, I think the shelter building may be a good idea. It will give them a place to go out of wind, so it might help them stay warmer. Also, there's not much that kids like more than their own club or fort. If you can build one or more with them, they'll love it.

What about some simple chemistry experiments? The combination of vinegar and baking soda once brought me joy. Thirty-plus years later, I can recall a small Anacin bottle the top of which became a projectile.

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#167641 - 02/23/09 12:26 PM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: Dan_McI]
Mike_H Offline
Addict

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 612
Loc: SE PA
Impressive that they were prepared to put the fire out. That definitely shows a good sign. But, yeah, discipline for starting the fire without supervision.

If it was a life threatening survival situation, it would be different.

Sounds like you did the right thing with them.
_________________________
"I reject your reality and substitute my own..." - Adam Savage / Mythbusters

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#167653 - 02/23/09 01:57 PM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
UncleGoo Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 390
Loc: CT
Until I was old enough to not need it, the rule regarding firearms was that Dad and I would get them out, whenever I wanted (unless the request conflicted with chores, dinner, etc), but if he were not around, the guns were off-limits. That might be an approach for you two and fire.
_________________________
Improvise,
Utilize,
Realize.

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#167656 - 02/23/09 02:35 PM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: GrilledBison]
Tom_L Offline
Addict

Registered: 03/19/07
Posts: 690
If I were you I'd be mighty proud. Sounds like your little ones have shown a lot more insight than most adults these days when it comes to making a fire. They took all the necessary safety precautions. Even though they might not be quite old enough to start a fire without supervision it's pretty obvious they understood what they were doing.

Looks like your kids may well grow up into avid outdoorsmen/women. No need to criticize or even punish them for what they did. Just let them know they should not play with fire on their own yet and teach them the little tricks of the trade to stimulate their interest.

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#167690 - 02/23/09 10:38 PM Re: My kids started a small fire today, without me [Re: Tom_L]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
As long as they're capable of doing it, they need to be doing it under supervision. That 'just say no' crap doesn't work with not slamming the door all summer, so why think 'no' to firestarting will be any different.

Maybe you can have them start a fire every day. Eventually, it may lose its fascination. "Aw, Dad, do we HAVE to start another stupid fire?"

Sue

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