(NEWS CENTER) -- Nearly every single day in Maine a home or a business burns in a fire. But did you know that of all the fires set purposefully by people more than than half of them are set by children?
In a ten year period starting in 2000 more than 2,800 fires were set by kids.
Two separate fires were set in Lewiston by two twelve year old boys. The fires happened less than a week apart, displaced nearly 200 people, caused more than a million dollars in damage, and left the city gripped in fear.
State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas has the battle scars and stories from forty years of fighting fires.
"The concern that I have," said Thomas, "is that that quote simple curiosity fire can also become the Lewiston conflagration. Only takes one match"
That worry lead to a study of juvenile fire setters over a ten year period -- 2000 and 2010 -- and these staggering numbers:
On average 300 fires are set by children every year in Maine. That's one every 30 hours. 16 people were killed. 129 injured... and 43 and a half million dollars in property were lost in just a decade's time.
"If that were any other type of circumstance happening," said Thomas, "people would be going nuts."
An injury while fighting a fire in the mid-1980's led Jerry DiMillo down a path to helping kids and community leaders better understand fire setting behavior. DiMillo estimates he has conducted more than 3,000 interviews with kids over the years. He says most kids he has talked with were curious about fire.
"That is an education problem," said DiMillo. "This child needs some information and he needs some information about fire."
Some were as young as 3. Once they get a little older -- fire setting can be caused by the influence of friends. Other kids use fire to seek attention or assistance and are set by kids with other mental health issues.
In most circumstances -- save for rare cases of pyromania -- kids can be rehabilitated through intervention and education. There are experts from the fire service and mental health fields all over the state ready to help children and their families.
But State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas says little is being done to educate kids about the dangers of playing with fire.
"If we can teach fire safety to youngsters at an early age," says Thomas, "we find their likelihood of exposing themselves or their family with any misbehaving with fire, very, very unlikely."
Fire experts suggest talking to your kids about the dangers of playing with fire. They say it is important to limit their access to ignition sources such as matches and lighters. They also advise adults to pay attention to their own actions with fire as kids often mimic what they do.
You can also seek help -- either through your local fire department or the State Fire Marshal's office. They can offer additional advice and provide education.