TOPSHAM, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Fire safety experts believe that teaching children at a young age the dangers of playing with fire can help prevent them from experimenting with it when they become older.
"The saying is, big fires start small, and that is exactly it," said retired State fire Marshal, Rick Shepard.
Shepard should know. He investigated fire scenes large and small during his 26 year career.
"Juvenile fire setting is reported to be about 50 percent of all human involved fires," he stated. "It is a real big issue. That is why we have the statewide fire setter program."
Each county in Maine has a fire setter program, designed to educate kids and their parents about the danger associated with fire. The daylong course includes training on fire safety, criminal statutes and the damage a fire can cause beyond just physically to things it burns, like risking the lives of first responders as they rush to a scene.
"A lot of times fires are associated with good times, camp fires, fires at home, cooking fires," he explained. "Children are not aware of the magnitude of damage that can be caused by fire."
While the fire setter program is geared towards kids that have already gotten into trouble playing with fire, fire experts say it is also important to talk to kids about the danger before they experience it first hand.
"We want to educate them that there are repercussions and consequences to that curiosity," said Topsham Fire Chief, Brian Stockdale. "Many times it is kind of that tunnel vision where they don't see what the consequence could be or any farther than really what they are doing."
Chief Stockdale says his department works with schools and community groups to educate kids about fire as a way to prevent fires.
"We want to catch children early and provide them with that education, along with their parents," he said.