FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 2
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are difficult to identify and may become reluctant to talk to fire investigators once the event has been turned back over to the owner or renter of the property. Information from the public can come in various forms—some public and some private. As a fire investigator, you will learn some of the basic information used in incident reporting. This will include the location of the fire, the date and time of the incident, weather conditions, the person reporting, the person requesting the report, description of construction, the amount of damage caused by the fire, possible motives related to the fire, and a continued safety plan once the fire has been extinguished. Planning a fire investigation is essential as it may involve additional manpower, such as private consultants and engineers for analyzing all aspects of the fire, fuel sources, and appliances. It is important to remember that the complexity of the fire scene will determine the number of details that surround the set of circumstances and its documentation. This will include fire scene sketches, drawings, physical evidence, and interviews.
When gathering the information during the interview process, the investigator should record the information either on a voice recorder or by having the witness write out a statement and sign it. The actual face-to-face interview can be recorded and then transcribed to a written document for the witness to read and sign, verifying what they told you during the interview. Interviews must be carefully planned out with proper consideration of the safety of everyone and the risks in the surrounding environment.
With new technology, the investigator's reporting systems have become wireless and user-friendly. Additionally, they may be synced to the fire department's mainframe reporting systems. This allows initial information to be populated for the fire investigator. This includes the incident number, location of the incident, accurate times, and any other prior information related to the fire scene.
Analyzing the Incident for Cause and Responsibility The cause and responsibility of the fire is something that investigators have an obligation to consider when getting ready to submit a case for the prosecution. The initial phase is the cause of the fire, the ignition source, first fuel ignited, and what caused them to come together. Investigators must determine what the construction material was and how well passive and active fire protection systems at the property complied with fire codes and building codes. Other items that need to be determined are what caused the loss of life or injuries in the fire and how well code enforcement was utilized in this scenario. The final issue on which the fire investigator must reach a conclusion is the human factor involved, and was it negligence or incendiary in nature; the answer to this question will most likely come from interviews with witnesses. The other part of making your final determination is finding out who is responsible for the damage or spread of the fire. Investigators must look at the structure for changes that were made during remodel that did not follow building or fire codes. Were fire doors propped open, keeping them from closing when the alarm sounded? Was there negligence on the part of the builder or property owner that caused the sprinkler system to fail? The appliances and other mechanical devices need to be evaluated to determine if there was a failure that caused the issue that started the fire.
FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 3
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The easiest way to determine if there are issues is through a failure analysis. This involves the application of analytical tools to help identify the various acts or omissions and the persons who may be associated with the fire's ignition. A failure analysis considers all the factors that may have contributed to the injuries, loss of life, and property damage that may result from the root of the incident. Some of the various types of analytical tools used in performing failure analysis will include timelines, system analysis, mathematical modeling, heat transfer analysis, hydraulic analysis, and fire dynamics analysis. By incorporating these various failure analyses, you will be able to associate the significance of contributing factors of the scene to the loss of life. For example the Coconut Grove nightclub fire in Boston in 1942 caused a large loss of life due to the lack of exits. This course will also examine a number of other cases where this type of analysis is performed to enhance code compliance and development. Additionally, you will learn to understand the importance of using timelines and the purpose for creating a failure analysis that can assist in determining the sequence of events as they unfolded. You will also learn that when developing timelines, they should relate to exact times and dates that are identified as hard times or hard data. In other cases, the term soft times is used when there is an estimated or generalized statement provided by a witness. As the fire investigator, you will realize that benchmarking events is particularly important as the foundation of timelines and may have a significant relationship to the cause, spread, protection, and extinguishment of the fire. Scaled times will be shown as the spacing between time intervals and events reflect the time lapse between each sequence of events. The fire investigator will also use analytical approaches to system analysis that take into account characteristics, behaviors, and performances of various elements within a fire investigation. This can include human activities, mechanical failures, or reactions to the various contents found in structure fires. When analyzing the fire, the fire investigator can incorporate various models or approaches that help analyze the fire incident. The most common approaches are mathematical and engineering models that include graphic models. With mathematical models, the fire investigator develops simulation and project events as established by scientific principles and imperial data. With graphics models, the investigator will find drawings that illustrate the physical models and computer animations. The fire investigator will also utilize the term meaningful analysis that requires a complete understanding of the heat release rate, fire growth rate, and the total heat released from the various products found within structure fires. The fault tree, commonly referred to as the decision tree, is used by fire investigators to illustrate the various series of events and decisions that are made by the fire investigator to develop a specific outcome to the investigation. When utilizing these types of graphics with productive reasoning, the solution or cause of the fire may become more apparent with a defined cause and origin. The fault tree is truly a tool of the trade. It allows fire investigators to place the chain of events into a logical order for explaining the sequence from the ignition to fire spread.
Testimony The fire investigator must understand the way that the courthouse functions including the procedures for both oral and written expert testimony for civil and criminal trials. The first item that needs to be noted is that the investigator completes a detailed and accurate report that will be presented at trial and reviewed by the defense. The report should cover all aspects of the investigation and be based on verified information. The ability to testify will improve with experience and through the training that the investigator continues to receive as he or she develops.
Reference International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Arson Investigators, & National Fire
Protection Association. (2019). Fire investigator: Principles and practice to NFPA 921 and 1033 (5th ed.). Jones & Bartlett.
FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 4
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Suggested Unit Resources In order to access the following resources, click the links below. This article outlines the need to verify the expert witness in a court proceeding based on the Daubert rule. Ford, G. T. (2005). The impact of the Daubert decision on survey research used in litigation. Journal of Public
Policy & Marketing, 24(2), 234–252. https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=18824765&site=ehost-live&scope=site
This article outlines the need for the investigator to meet the needs of an expert witness. Herling, D. J., Williams, G. M., & Wise, J. T. (2009). Non-traditional uses of Daubert: A review of recent case
law. FDCC Quarterly, 60(1), 69–80. https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=56531510&site=ehost-live&scope=site
This article looks at the behavioral breakdown of how expert witnesses work. Lakoff, G. P. (2005). A cognitive scientist looks at Daubert. American Journal of Public Health, 95(S1), S114–
Learning Activities (Nongraded) Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information. This is an opportunity for you to express your thoughts about the material you are studying by writing about it. Conceptual thinking is a great way to study because it gives you a chance to process what you have learned and increases your ability to remember it. Before completing your graded work, consider completing the “Case Study” and “On Scene” exercises for Chapters 12, 19, and 20. Completing these exercises will help you with your graded work. The exercises can be found on the following page numbers: Chapter 12: “Case Study,” p. 230 Chapter 12: “On Scene,” pp. 239-240 Chapter 19: “Case Study,” p. 318 Chapter 19: “On Scene,” p. 322 Chapter 20: “Case Study,” p. 324 Chapter 20: “On Scene,” pp. 335-336 If you have any questions or do not understand a concept, contact your professor for clarification.
- Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VIII
- Unit Lesson
- Sources of Information
- Analyzing the Incident for Cause and Responsibility
- Learning Activities (Nongraded)