Peachtree City Grapples with the “Fire Challenge” TikTok Trend

Cara Radosevich, Contributing Writer

According to FOX 5 Atlanta, police arrested an unnamed 14-year-old girl who is suspected of setting fire to a Walmart in Peachtree City on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The blaze began before 7:20 p.m. in the paper goods section of the store. 

 Investigators are puzzled as to whether the girl was motivated to commit arson by the TikTok challenge known as the “Fire Challenge.” This challenge encourages TikTok users to set fire to objects. 

 Mia Scarbrough, senior mass communication major, is from Peachtree City. She considers Peachtree City a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other and their businesses. 

 Scarbrough is a member of the “Life in the PTC Bubble” Facebook group. In this group, community members condemn the suspect and her parents. Community members blame the social media platform, Tik Tok, for being a bad influence on impressionable children. 

“I work for The Citizen, which is the newspaper in my town,” Scarbrough said. “We’re getting a lot of emails about ‘it’s a TikTok trend to set the paper aisle on fire or set something on fire in Walmart.”

The Walmart was busy when the fire was set, so the citizens of Peachtree City were furious that people were endangered and could have died. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed in the fire, but there was extensive damage to the store.  

According to Scarbrough, the Walmart pharmacy is in operation so that the community has access to essential items. However, some citizens have complained on Facebook about the fire affecting their ability to receive goods. 

She also sees the possibility of rumors leading to community members discovering the identity of the girl and her parents. Scarbrough thinks that they could be ostracized and forced to move in this situation as the community grapples with the legal consequences the fire starter should face. 

“There’s a lot of debate if the 14-year-old girl should be tried as an adult or tried as a child,” Scarbrough said. 

Although police are unsure if the girl was motivated by the TikTok challenge, parents are convinced the app is responsible. Some psychologists see TikTok as a bad influence on children because they are too immature to gauge the riskiness of viral challenges. 

According to Psychology Today, “However, for those who crave social validation and lack the critical thinking skills or developmental maturity to judge risk, TikTok and TikTok challenges can be a less positive and sometimes dangerous experience.” 

Some members of the Peachtree City community believe the age minimum on TikTok should be raised to 18 as children are trying risky challenges unaware of possible consequences. 

Others deem the girl’s parents responsible for her setting the fire because they believe her parents should have been monitoring her TikTok account.  

“A lot of people are saying this is a time to check in on your kids and see if anyone is trying to convince them to do other stuff like this,” Scarbrough said. 

 Some mothers of the community wrote on Facebook that they feel distraught for the girl’s parents, and they do not blame their daughter for setting the fire.