Fire starting a growing problem among Rapid City youth

RAPID CITY, S.D. — In recent days, the Rapid City Fire Department has been called to a number of grass fires in the area and they say those grass fires could have been prevented. The problem, authorities say, is spreading among youth in the community.

The department responds to about 43 fires outdoors a year and they say at least 15-20 of them are started by children. And that was most likely the case with the fires that started up in the past few days.

“It’s a growing problem in the city, overall,” said Tim Behlings, Rapid City fire marshal and division chief. “We would just really like to get a handle on it if we can. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt or see property lost.”

Behlings says it may be curiosity or child’s play that leads to the fires.

“We really want to encourage people to be vigilant and careful with people out in the grassland and wild land areas in the city,” said Behlings. “Especially with young kids, be sure to discuss that fire play is not something they should be engaged in.”

They urge parents to be vigilant of where their kids are and what they are doing.

The consequences can escalate just as quick as fires can spread.

“Depends on if it was intentional or not,” said Behlings. “At the least case is they could be brought into the juvenile fire setter program, which may be an educational component to some public service type time all the way to being responsible for the cost of suppression or building loss.”

The cost of suppression could also ramp up quickly and those can amount to several thousand dollars an hour for the crews and materials used to fight the fire.

More serious charges, like Arson stemming from reckless burning, can also apply to kids.

Categories: Crime, Local News