London Fire Brigade's Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Scheme (JFIS) was in the national spotlight recently when it was the subject of a major BBC2 documentary.

The JFIS scheme is at the forefront of London Fire Brigade's efforts to reduce the number of deliberate fires in the capital and uses a team of volunteer advisors to work with children up to the age of 18 who have demonstrated curiosity about fire or firesetting behaviour, including arson. Since it was established in 2001 the team has received nearly 3,000 referrals.

The 'Kids Who Play With Fire', was part of the acclaimed Wonderland documentary series, and saw camera crews follow the work of the JFIS team over four months at the end of 2010 along with a team from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. The programme focussed on visits carried out by London's JFIS Manager Joanna Foster and assistant manager Andy Baxter to a 10 year-old boy and 15 year-old girl who were both setting fires at home.

Speaking about the experience Joanna said: "We are often approached with requests for sensationalist stories about young arsonists, to which the answer is always no.  However the BBC Wonderland documentary team showed a measured understanding of the subject, along with a desire to portray the children as individuals not demons and this gave us the confidence to be a part of their fly on the wall documentary into why children set fires.

"The experience of being filmed was extremely rewarding; very much like the end outcome of a successful JFIS intervention.  However, what made this so different was that an estimated one million viewers were able to watch our work. We hope that the viewing public were able to see that what we do within JFIS is an important part of London Fire Brigade's work and that the seriousness of children setting fires was highlighted. Ultimately we hope that the exposure will lead to an increase in referrals for those families that need support."

The programme was well received by television reviewers. Time Out said: "The fire service tackle each case with sensitivity and psychological know-how" while the Radio Times said the programme showed "the kind of parenting lessons only the fire service can give."

Since the broadcast London's JFIS Team has been approached by the NSPCC, Middlesex University and the University of West England, with a view to working together in the future.


Posted: 14.44, 19.07.11,