Straight Talk

Click Here To Refer

Straight Talk was chosen by the United States Fire Administration and its national partners to be highlighted as 1 of only 8 exemplary prevention and intervention programs in the U.S. for the Arson Awareness Week "Prevent Youth Firesetting."  Read More  It was selected as a Vision 20/20 Model Performance in Community Risk Reduction program.  Additionally, we were the recipient of the 2023 Safe States Alliance Injury and Violence Prevention Achievement Award for the “innovative and evidence-based approach to comprehensively addressing youth firesetting and injuries."  View the 2023 USFA Arson Awareness Week Webinar "Understanding and Mitigating Youth Firesetting Issues - A Guide to Success" and NFPA Podcast "Trauma and Risk" presented by the Trauma Burn Center's Karla Klas.

A family-oriented program targeting youth 8 - 17 (for children less than 8 years contact us for options) who exhibit behaviors associated with the misuse of fire, such as:  playing with matches or lighters, using accelerants, firesetting, fireworks, bottle bombs, arson, etc.  It is also for youth who have observed others playing with fire or who are at risk for experimentation. Firefighters, arson police, social workers, an injury prevention nurse, an occupational therapist, lab personnel, and burn survivors teach the medical, social, legal, and financial consequences associated with the misuse of fire.  Youth and their families receive interactive education and techniques to promote a safe home environment and prevent injuries.  Straight Talk is provided to families free of charge.


Upcoming 2024 dates for in-person classes: 

October 8, 2024
December 10, 2024


Straight Talk Facts

  • Offered by The Trauma Burn Center at no charge to participants.
  • Tuesdays, on a bi-monthly basis from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Custodial parent(s) or legal guardian must attend with the child for the entire program. Siblings or other related youth may also attend for education if they are more than 8 years old.
  • For children less than 8 years old, please contact us for options.
  • To refer, see "Straight Talk Referral Process" below.


Children and Fire

Children and Fire Handout

Burns and fires are a leading cause of accidental death in the home for children under the age of 14, and approximately 40% of the fires that kill young children are started by children playing with fire. Arson has the highest rate of youth involvement of any crime, with 46% of all arson arrests in the U.S. committed by children under the age of 18. Youth-set fires result in more than 56,000 fires, 900 injuries, 110 deaths, and $300 million in direct property damages per year.

Children do not believe they or anyone else will be injured by a fire they set. They do not think about the fire extending beyond the object they are igniting. Since curiosity is powerful motivation for children, interactive education is a critical component of prevention. Our staff is dedicated to providing the educational experience needed to help deter high-risk behavior. The goal of the program is to reduce the recurrence rate of youth experimentation with fire and flammable substances.

Straight Talk Referral Process

Refer any youth age 8-17 who are at risk for, or exhibit high-risk behavior associated with all types of fire misuse (e.g., fire play, fire setting, arson, experimentation, fireworks, bottle bombs, etc.).

  1. Complete a referral form.  Email it to: sends e-mail) or Fax it to: 734-232-3833
    Referral Form (PDF)(link is external)
  2. Complete a Waiver Disclosure form. (This is for referring schools, fire departments, police departments and social service agencies. Parent initiated referrals need not complete.) Fax it to: 734-232-3833 or Email sends e-mail)
    Disclosure Form (PDF)(link is external)
  3. Provide each custodial parent or legal guardian with:
    Straight Talk Family Information Forms (PDF).(link is external)
  4. Parent/legal guardian must call or email to schedule their child/children into the Straight Talk program. To schedule call 734-232-3814 or Email sends e-mail) 

After the Class

  1. It is the parent/legal guardian's responsibility to return the Straight Talk Program Certificate of Completion to your referring agency.
  2. The referring agency will be contacted immediately if youth does not attend the Straight Talk program.

For Additional Information Please Contact

Karla Klas, RN, BSN, CCRP
Straight Talk Program Coordinator
Injury Prevention Education Specialist
Phone: 734-232-3815
E-mail: or 

Karla's Bio

We Accept Referrals from All Sources

  • Parents/Guardians/Caregivers
  • Juvenile Justice and Courts
  • Fire Service Agencies
  • Schools (e.g., Principals, Teachers, Coaches, School Resource Officers, Counselors, School Nurses, etc.)
  • Law Enforcement
  • Social Service and Mental Health Agencies
  • Youth Assistance Programs
  • Community Agencies, Clubs, and Organizations
  • Places of Worship
  • Any adult who works with youth

Straight Talk Prevention Education is Presented By

  • The University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center
  • Department of Physical Therapy
  • Department of Occupational Therapy
  • Department of Social Work
  • Local Fire Service agencies

Straight Talk is Funded Through Donations

FRIENDS of the University Hospitals, Bloomfield Township Fire Department, Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive, Ann Arbor Fire Department, and the support of many other community organizations that make it possible to provide this essential program at no cost to families.

Straight Talk Program Brochure

Straight Talk FAQ’s

What is Straight Talk?

Straight Talk is nationally-acclaimed family-focused program for youth who have misused fire, such as:  playing with matches or lighters, mimicking video games or online video fire tricks, using accelerants, setting fires, participating in online fire challenges, experimenting with fireworks or bottle bombs, pulling false fire alarms, etc. It is also for youth who are at risk for experimentation and/or who have observed others misusing fire (such as a sibling or a group of friends). Research clearly shows that without appropriate intervention or if only punishment is used, the fire misuse behaviors will very likely continue. Therefore, refer youth to Straight Talk since it is a proven-effective comprehensive intervention program.

Is Straight Talk a “Scared Straight” program?

No. Scare tactics do not work: in fact, they can actually cause harm and have been proven to increase unwanted behaviors in youth. The Straight Talk program is based on currently known best practices in youth firesetting (YFS) intervention and prevention. It uses principles of cognitive behavior therapy and motivational interviewing as fundamental methods to promote behavior change. This supportive, non-punitive program focuses on building decision-making skills to positively redirect at-risk youth.

Who can refer youth to Straight Talk?

Anyone can! We accept referrals to this free program from all sources. In fact, the program is widely utilized and endorsed by parents, schools, fire and police departments, juvenile courts, youth assistance, and other social service and community agencies.

Is there an age requirement?

Please refer all children and teens who are suspected to be involved in (including those in a group watching the incident) misusing fire to this free program. While the group setting style of the class is typically most appropriate for children between the ages 8 – 17, our expert staff customize the education to each child’s individual needs. This includes providing customized intervention for very young and special needs children. In short, make the referral to the program and don’t ever hesitate to contact us to discuss potential options!

Should I refer a child if they were only an observer and didn’t actually set the fire?

Yes, Proactive education is beneficial to the child and family, as observing others misusing fire can negatively impact a child’s behavior and future decision-making.

Our department already has a Youth Firesetting Program, so there isn’t a need to refer to Straight Talk.

We still encourage you to refer! Straight Talk augments and builds upon any education or intervention that you provide. It uses a multidisciplinary staff to provide a comprehensive curriculum not possible to do at a fire department YFS program. There is also great benefit to having children and their caregivers hear multiple professionals reiterate important safety information.

Who teaches the Straight Talk Program?

A multidisciplinary approach is used to address the variety of factors that contribute to firesetting. Firefighters/Fire investigators, social workers, former firesetting youth, burn survivors, and medical personnel are utilized to discuss the social, legal, medical, future/career, and financial consequences in order to comprehensively address a youth’s risky behaviors.

When should I refer? How do I refer?

Make a referral as soon as you suspect a child is misusing or is at risk for misusing fire! The referral form is available here Or feel free to call or email us. Our team is flexible to meet the unique considerations of each case.

Should I refer a child if they were not arrested, convicted, or otherwise proven guilty for firesetting or arson?

Yes! Straight Talk is for all youth associated with fire misuse incidents, including those that observed and did not set the fire. As noted above, proactive education is beneficial to the child and family, as observing others misusing fire can negatively impact a child’s behavior and future decision-making.

Who should come to the Straight Talk program?

Youth who have misused fire (see the first FAQ), who are at risk for experimentation, and/or who have observed others misusing fire. It is mandatory for parent(s) or legal guardian to attend the entire program with youth. We encourage siblings 8 years and older and other adult caregivers to also come for education.

Does Straight Talk work?

Straight Talk is proven as a highly effective program: A prospective study published in the Journal of Trauma demonstrated the recidivism rate for Straight Talk participants was 0.8% (less than 1 percent) versus 36% in the matched cohort group who did not attend the program.* Straight Talk was also highlighted by the United States Fire Administration as one of only eight exemplary prevention and intervention programs in the United States for the National Arson Awareness Week “Prevent Youth Firesetting” (page 6): [*Reference: Franklin GA, Pucci PS, Arbabi S, Brandt MM, Wahl WL, Taheri PA. Decreased juvenile arson and firesetting recidivism after implementation of a multidisciplinary prevention program. J Trauma. 2002 Aug;53(2):260-4; discussion 264-6. Available at:]

It was a minor incident, I talked with the child, and they seem like a good kid. Should I still refer?

Yes. Without specialized intervention, youth are likely to continue misusing fire. Even small fire incidents that weren’t done for malicious reasons have the potential for causing great harm. All fire misuse behaviors place children, siblings, family members, neighbors, firefighters, first responders, and other innocent bystanders at risk for injury and death. Each year youth-set fires cause hundreds of injuries, millions of dollars in damage, and are most likely to kill young children under the age of five.

I have a really unique situation involving a child and his family. I’m not sure where to turn for help.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We regularly provide free consultation on fire misuse incidents (both locally and nationally). We will help you come up with a supportive plan for the child and family.

I told the child’s parents about Straight Talk and they say they don’t want to come. Since I’m not going to prosecute the case, I can’t make them. What do you recommend?

Go ahead and send us the referral. Explain to the parents that Straight Talk is a supportive and nonpunitive class. All families benefit from the safety education provided. You can suggest that they read testimonials from other parents (visit Once you send us the referral, we will reach out and provide key information and safety tips to the caregivers.

How long is the program?

Straight Talk is a 1-day class provided bimonthly for free in Ann Arbor.

Can I attend Straight Talk? Do you offer professional development training?

Yes. Contact us to request being a professional observer. Our expert staff are also available to provide free educational sessions onsite at your agency on a variety of topics (e.g., youth firesetting, abuse/burns, Stop the Bleed training, older adult safety, etc.):  You can also contact us for more information at: or 734-232-3814

Children Using Fire Unsafely in Our Homes and Communities


"I sat in on the first half of your program yesterday. You and your team did a great job with the kids I was very impressed with the whole thing and would recommend this to anyone."
-- firefighter and public educator

"I enjoyed the opportunity for parents and children to learn together."
-- parent

"Everything was very informative, some parts were very moving and emotional. The speakers were great and it was interesting and eye-opening to hear from both sides."
-- parent

"I sat in on your [Straight Talk] program yesterday. You and your team did a great job with the kids I was very impressed with the whole thing. And [I] would recommend this to anyone as it's too bad this type of education is not in our school system."
-- Fire Marshal

"During my tenure, I feel truly blessed to have served as a member of the University of Michigan's "Straight Talk" program by representing our local law enforcement who shares in the responsibility of educating juveniles on the legal consequences of illegal fire setting. I remain grateful to have been a part of such an effective and worthwhile national program!"
-- Chief of Police

"Thank you for providing the letter for work and for hosting the arson and fire safety class. The class was very thoughtfully organized and offered a wealth of information and real talk for both parents and students. I learned a lot and sincerely hope the messages from the class take deep impact on my son."
-- Mother

"I want to thank you again for exposing [my son] and I to such a wonderful program. [My son] has been so impressed by everything he heard and saw. Especially meeting other children his age and younger. [Burn survivor] and the other young man have made a very big impression on him. I heard him give a summary of what took place with his father after we got home and I could hear him say: "I could have burned the house down and kill mom and [brother] in a fire, I couldn't have lived with myself". I knew then that you and all the participants have reached him. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your selfless and hard work. I will pass the word on about the program! Thank you again and again. I will let you know how we're progressing. Please check on us. We could use all the help we can get! Sincerely yours, "
-- Mother

"I was so impressed with the Straight Talk content, speakers and the way you treated the kids with respect and hope. Thanks for letting me attend the conference - I learned so much. And, it was wonderful to see you in action with the families. They commented on what a great job you did when they were leaving."
-- UM Employee and Volunteer

"Your program is such a treasurer and I'm lucky I have the ability to send kids to you for additional help. This program really makes a difference! Kids telling kids about their mistakes or unfortunate circumstances really hits home with them. They hear the message loud and clear when it comes from someone other than a parent or someone wearing a uniform. I am really thankful to be a part of this amazing program! Hope you have a wonderful day and thanks again!"
-- Fire Inspector

"The hard work and dedication you put into this program has saved countless lives and steered many youth down a positive path. Congratulations!"
-- Fire Inspector

"I wanted to let you guys know that I really enjoyed the Straight Talk program yesterday. It is a great program and you guys do a wonderful job with it. I have already recommended it to other firefighters. Keep up the great work."
-- Firefighter

Children & Fire: A Deadly Combination

Children playing with matches. Juvenile fire setting. Fire starting. These are all phrases that describe a problem that has received a growing amount of attention.

Why do so many children - why does any child - light fires? More importantly, what can we do to stop them?

Most experts agree that the best way to understand a child's fire setting is by looking at the context and motivation for the behavior. There are four types of fire setting. For each type there is a different strategy used to stop the behavior.

1. Curiosity Fire Setting

Curiosity Fire Setting
 2. Crisis Fire Setting
Crisis Fire Setting

3. Delinquent Fire Setting
Delinquent Fire Setting

4. Problem Fire Setting
Problem Fire Setting