Indian Affairs | Youth Fire Intervention Program

Youth Fire Intervention Program

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On average, human-caused wildfires destroy 187 structures annually in Indian Country. Actively participating in wildland fire prevention and youth fire education and intervention programs can protect critical economic resources and ultimately saves lives.



 In Indian Country, arson and debris burning are the leading causes of wildfires in areas where vegetation interfaces with urban structures. Connecting youth to the dangers and consequences of their behavior is one goal of an educational intervention program. 

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The goal of the BIA Fire Prevention program is to prevent unwanted human caused fires.

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Children are naturally curious about fire, yet they are also the most at risk for being hurt or killed in a fire. Intervention programs work with parents and caregivers to safely show children how to respect and understand the power of fire.



Tule River Tribal Community’s Youth Program Showcased on Video

On May 20 and 21st. members of the Tule River Indian Reservation were interviewed on camera about their successful youth fire intervention program. The program was established in 2009 as a result of a series of fires set by seven youth between the ages of 8 and 15. The fires were set in the Painted Rock area, a culturally important site for the Tule River Band of the Yukot Indians. The Tribal Council insisted on an intervention/diversion program that would educate the youth on their responsibility to protect their families, the community and the Tribe’s natural and cultural resources from fire. With the support of the Tribal Council, Captain Aaron Franco from the Fire Department and Jim Nanamkin from the BIA convened a coalition of community agencies willing to work with the youth and hold them accountable for their actions. David Sanchez, Department of the Interior, NIPTC and Judith Okulitch, BIA Youth Fire Intervention Program Contractor spent two days filming Tribal Council members, community agency representatives, parents and youth about their experience in the program. The video showcases the youth performing community service projects for the community and reading apology letters to Tribal Council.

Indian Country has long recognized the wise and cultural use of wildfire as a significant process responsible for shaping habitat structure and function to meet traditional daily needs and ceremonial practices. Despite the necessity of using wildfire as a tool by professional land managers to restore landscapes, serious ecological, economic and cultural problems have resulted because of untrained youth handling fire in dangerous and risky ways. Communities in Indian Country cannot afford to ignore this problem, which is why the Youth Fire Intervention Program was established.

At least 6,048 wildfires resulting in over 95,694 burned acres have been ignited in Indian Country over the last seven years due to the irresponsible use of fire. When youth set fires in or around homes, they place themselves, their siblings and other family members in serious physical, emotional and economic danger. These fires cause losses to individual property and may involve burn injuries or even death. While the cost of these fires can be measured monetarily, the emotional and physical damage that results from these fires may last a lifetime, or beyond.

Intervention services help educate and instill a sense of respect in the youth about the power of fire and hold them accountable for their actions to the tribal community. It is important for community members, especially the youth, to learn the serious financial, legal and emotional costs of a youth-set wildfire that gets out of hand.

The design of this website is intended to provide tribes with a tool that gives them the latest research on culturally appropriate prevention and intervention strategies for tribal youth; share recent news from Indian Country, and provides links to additional resources, events and training opportunities. As a collaborative effort, feedback on the usability of the features as well as suggestions for additional resources that are appropriate for this site are welcome.