Tough lesson for boy who played with fire
Reality: Ben Smith.

When Ben Smith was eight years old, he was hypnotised by the flames he could build.

"It's magical creating something that has so much energy," the now 21-year-old said.

It was that energy and Mr Smith's enthusiasm for lighting fires that led to him suffering full-thickness burns to 55 per cent of his body.

"There was a fire that I had pretty much put together myself, just sticks and whatever I could find," he said.

"I snuck out. I was a terrible firebug.

"My parents literally kicked me up the arse for it so many times and I think as a young kid you just thrive on that kind of attitude.

"I stole my dad's oxy torch lighter and got the fire going and then kept piling sticks on. Then I placed the drum on there and it must have been on there for five or 10 minutes and then it just built up with a lot of pressure and it exploded."

The fire would shape Mr Smith's young life and it is a mistake he hopes no other child will make.

"I knew it was bad but I didn't know the consequences," he said.

"I didn't know what a burn was. I would have thought it was like sunburn.

"I'm sure there are hundreds of kids out there like me when I was younger who love fire but there are so many dangers to it."

POLICE SHOCKED BY CHILD FIREBUGS

The web designer is sharing his story with children as part of a new DVD for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services' juvenile and family fire awareness program that aims to divert kids away from lighting fires.

"I just want to show them the consequences of what could happen if something goes wrong," Mr Smith said.

"The simple thing is don't do it. I did it and I paid the enormous consequences."

DFES assistant commissioner Gary Gifford said the program had gone a long way to steering children with a natural curiosity about fire in the right direction. He said 93 per cent of young people who took part in the program in 2011-12 did not light fires within six months of completing the course.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said it was important to recognise the career and volunteer firefighters who had given their time to deliver the program to more than 350 young people and their families in the past five years.

The West Australian

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