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Mother Blames ‘Beavis and Butt-head’ For Fatal Fire

October 8, 1993

MORAINE, Ohio (AP) _ The mother of a 5-year-old who started a fire that killed his younger sister blames the MTV cartoon ″Beavis and Butt-head″ for promoting burning as fun, a fire official said Friday.

Fire Chief Harold Sigler said he wants the cable network to eliminate shows that might encourage playing with fire and would like to see violence on the show reduced.

″The mother is attributing the fact that he was fascinated with fire to the ‘Beavis and Butt-head’ segment where they are setting things on fire,″ he said.

″When you take a child in the formative years and you get these cartoon characters saying it’s fun to play with fire ... this is going to stick in that kid’s mind and it’s going to be with him for a long time,″ Sigler said.

The show features two teen-agers who comment on rock videos and spend time burning and destroying things.

Austin Messner watched one show that had the cartoon characters saying fire is fun, Sigler said.

″From that point on, he’s been playing with fire,″ Sigler said. ″According to the mother, right after that she caught him playing with matches.″

The mother was concerned enough that she took the boy’s bedroom door off the hinges so she could watch him more closely, the fire chief said.

Carole Robinson, a spokeswoman for MTV, said the station will ″re-examine issues regarding ‘Beavis and Butt-head’ ″ in the aftermath of the death.

″We’re not aware of all the facts but obviously this event was a terrible tragedy,″ she said. ″Responsibly programming MTV has always been and will continue to be our top priority.″

Firefighters were called to the family’s mobile home park Wednesday in this suburban Dayton city in southwest Ohio after the boy set his bed on fire while playing with a cigarette lighter.

Austin and his mother, Darcy Burk, and her boyfriend, Steve Sears, escaped. His 2-year-old sister, Jessica Matthews, died in the fire.

In western Ohio, Sidney Fire Chief Stan Crosley blamed the cartoon for an Aug. 23 fire that three girls started after watching the program.

He said one ″Beavis and Butt-head″ episode featured a character setting fire to the other’s hair by using a match to ignite spray from an aerosol can. Crosley said the children used the technique to set clothing on fire in a bedroom, causing some damage to the house.

″The children admitted they saw it on TV and thought they could do it too,″ Crosley said.

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