Kids And Matches, A Dangerous Combination - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Kids And Matches, A Dangerous Combination

Trina Martin lives in the College Heights apartment building that burned last week because a child was playing with a lighter. While she washed clothes, she talked about the fire.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the parents," Martin said. "If they're going to have matches and cigarettes, they need to put them up higher if they have smaller kids."

To emphasize that point, the Gulfport Fire Department uses a fire safety house. Firemen constantly teach children that matches and lighters can be just as dangerous as weapons.

According to lead investigator Joe Ing, kids "don't understand the dangers of a lighter. Because it's just like a loaded gun. You have to be aware of this. And you need to teach your children when they see things like this to put them up and put them away."

Otherwise, the consequences could be tragic.

According to investigators, a child started both the College Heights fire and a New Years Eve apartment fire in Wiggins. In both cases, nobody got hurt. But families aren't always that lucky. For example, in July, a Long Beach girl got trapped in her burning apartment. And in September, three Gulfport residents couldn't escape a Highway 49 fire. Both deadly incidents started because of kids playing with fire.

"Lighters aren't toys," Ing said. "Lighters and matches aren't toys. You don't play with these. If you find them, you take them to your parents."

Since the College Heights fire, apartment managers have been swamped with clothing donations. Managers are overwhelmed by the generosity. But they realize it wouldn't be necessary if a child wasn't playing with a lighter.

Fire officials say you should keep lighters and matches in a secured drawer or cabinet. And you should teach kids that fire is a tool to light candles, or a grill. It's not a toy that they can play with.

By Brad Kessie

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