May 9, 2008


Two hundred elementary school students throughout Broward County participated in the U.S. Fire Administration’s Arson Awareness Week 2008 essay writing contest. On May 6th, the three winners from Cooper City Elementary School read their essays to their classes and received certificates, Wal-Mart gift cards and cakes decorated with fire trucks to share with their classmates. The contest was coordinated by the Broward Sheriff Fire Marshal’s Bureau on behalf of the Broward County Juvenile Firesetters Program and the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal.

The third, fourth and fifth grade students who participated in this year’s essay contest had to write an essay on the topic of arson awareness and prevention, with the writing prompt, “A boy in first grade at your school was playing with fire at home and caused damage to his house.”

The judges, from Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue and the Florida Div. of State Fire Marshal, chose the winning essays based on accuracy of information, focus on the topic, relevant supporting ideas and creativity. Contest winners also came from Weston, Lauderdale Lakes, West Park, Pembroke Park and Ft. Lauderdale elementary schools.

This event is one of many throughout the state designed to raise awareness of the risks and dangers of arson. Arson Awareness Week 2008 runs from May 4 – 10. This year’s theme is “Toylike Lighters – Playing with Fire.” These novelty lighters that look like toys have killed and injured children in fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2002 there were 13,900 reported child-playing structure fires in the U.S. resulting in 210 civilian deaths and 1,250 injuries. Most child-playing home fires are started with matches or lighters, with an average age of five-years-old.

Photo caption: Fifth grader David Morales (front left) holds up his winning second place essay as his teacher Ms. Cretu holds their certificates. Joining them are (left to right): BSFR Dep. Chief Todd Leduc, Life Safety Ed. Pam Gorman, FL. Div. of State Fire Marshal Det. Ryan Gustin, Life Safety Ed. Courtney Palmer, Cooper City District Fire Chief Michael Campbell, BSFR Capt. Vince Greico and BSO School Resource Deputy Gloria Anton.

Photo by Mike Jachles/Broward Sheriff Fire

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