Robert Fulghum, famous for his kindergarten wisdom, once wisely remarked, “
If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you have a problem. Everything else is inconvenience."
Pittsford’s Dr. Robert Cole understands the profound implications of the problems to which Fulghum alludes.
President of Fireproof Children, located in the old “Pickle Factory,” has conducted research into fire-setting started by juveniles.
In his studies, he was surprised to learn: “The young age of the children who started fires, their extensive experience with fire, their ready access to ignition materials, and the small number of families that actually explain fire is an adult tool.”
To be sure, much of the fire-setting is the inadvertent by-product of children playing. But, not always.
Says Cole, a developmental psychologist at the University of Rochester, “Based on our interviews with children, we believe most of the children who intentionally set fires are responding to serious, but common, family crises and that our local social service agencies and providers could help resolve those crises. Simply by making appropriate referrals, we were able to reduce repeat fire-setting by more than 70 percent in the City of Rochester."
Asked for a simple tip all families could use, Cole share a three-word maxim: “Put it away.”
He elaborates: “Easy access to all forms of hazardous materials — matches, lighters, candles, poisons, knives — is a critical contributor to all types of unintentional injuries. Putting them away is a simple, cost-free, intervention any family can use."
The genesis for Cole’s Fireproof Children firm was an initiative undertaken in 1982 by the Rochester Fire Department.
They approached the Child and Adolescent Clinic at the U of R to help them better understand children who started fires and how best to deal with them.
"We have been working together ever since," Cole shares. "In 1988, we started our company, Fireproof Children, to be able to provide education and training to other organizations."
American poet John Godfrey Saxe once pondered this question, "If Prometheus was worthy of the wrath of heaven for kindling the first fire upon earth, how ought all the gods honor the men who make it their professional business to put it out?"
One wonders how the gods ought honor those who prevent fires from starting in the first place.