Fire investigation mythswith pictures


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Fire investigation mythswith pictures

  1. 1. Fire Investigation Myths and Fire Investigator Responsibilities Tom Bohm, Fire Marshal Hermiston Fire and Emergency Services
  2. 2. Char /Alligatoring
  3. 3. Myth #1 Depth of Char / Alligatoring • Myth – An investigator could estimate how long the fire burned by the depth of the char • Truth- Charring shows time or intensity – Low intense fire/long duration may have the same char pattern as a high intense pattern/short duration • Use char as an indictor of fire travel
  4. 4. Myth #1 Depth of Char / Alligatoring • Myth - Alligatoring- if the blisters were large and shiny a sign of ignitable liquid was used • Truth- There is no significance to alligatoring
  5. 5. Spalling
  6. 6. Myth #2 Spalling • Myth- Spalling in concrete means ignitable liquids were used • Truth – the area beneath a puddle of liquid, even ignitable liquids, will be cooler than adjacent exposed surfaces during a fire
  7. 7. Annealed bed or furniture springs
  8. 8. Myth #3 Annealed Bed or Furniture Springs • Myth- Caused by a long duration smoldering event- cigarette in a sofa • Truth- Short duration exposure of over 750° F causes annealing • Can be used to quantitate fire flow and intensity
  9. 9. Ignitable liquid / pour pattern
  10. 10. Myth #4 Ignitable Liquids/ Pour Patterns • Myth – Narrow or irregular burn patterns on the floor are reliable signs of an ignitable liquid • Truth- not reliable in post flashover fires or in drop down fires • Worn carpet areas may show a pattern • Furniture padding may melt
  11. 11. Myth #5 Spontaneous Combustion • Myth- Stain rags in a pile will spontaneously combust • Truth- pile has to be just right- too tight and no oxygen and to loose heat dissipates • Remember – these stain give off ignitable vapors
  12. 12. Myth #6 Electrical Fires • Myth- the absence of tangible proof of an incendiary fire indicates electrical caused fire • Truth- Sometimes you just have to say the fire is ruled accidental and the cause is undetermined and then state why
  13. 13. Myth #7- Fire are Ruled Arson or Suspicious • Myth - The fire is ruled arson or suspicious • Truth- Arson is a crime – no one has been convicted • Truth- No fire is suspicious – suspicious is a level of proof not a classification of cause- only accidental, incendiary , natural or undetermined
  14. 14. Windows
  15. 15. Myth #8 Windows • Myth – greasy windows indicate a petroleum product was used • Truth- greasy windows mean nothing • Myth- Crazing of glass proves rapid, intense fire • Truth- proves rapid cooling- crazing can occur with a 140° F temperature change or difference
  16. 16. Smoke Patterns
  17. 17. Myth #8 Color of Smoke/ Intense Fast Fires • Myth- Black smoke means a petroleum based ignitable liquid was used • Truth – Not a reliable indicator • Myth- Fast fires are caused by ignitable liquids • Truth- 1977- it took 17 minutes from the sounding of the smoke alarm to flashover, In 2009 – 3 minutes • Wood and gasoline burn at same flame temperature
  18. 18. Tripped electrical breakers
  19. 19. Myth #8 Tripped electrical breakers • Myth- Tripped breaker meant an electrical fire • Truth- Tripped breaker may mean temperatures at panel at over 400° F for over 20 minutes
  20. 20. Myth #9 Burn Patterns • Myth- Charring on the bottom of the door indicates ignitable liquid was used Truth- This usually happens when the door is closed and hot gasses escape
  21. 21. Is Fire Investigation “Junk Science” • Myth- what I was told in 1977 by fire investigators is it true today • Truth- most fire investigators at that time used experience and what other older fire investigators said for their fire investigation methodology and theories • Truth- Fires can be inconsistent – too many variables, wind, humidity, size of room, oxygen, ceiling height, fuel load
  22. 22. How to Improve Fire Investigations • Training ▫ NFPA 921 ▫ National Fire Academy ▫ IAAI • Certification ▫ NFPA certification through DPSST ▫ CFI through the IAAI • Use a systematic approach to fire investigation everytime ▫ Pictures ▫ Sketches ▫ Outside to inside, least burned to most burned fire investigation method – everytime ▫ Document, Document, Document
  23. 23. How to Improve Fire Investigations • You need to rule in as well as rule out • Not one single indicator can be taken at face value without considering other factors • Unless you are certain – the fire is undetermined • Do not make your investigation fit your theory • To be classified incendiary it must be “ beyond a reasonable doubt of fire investigator certainty”
  24. 24. Basic Responsibilities for Fire Investigations • Understand- that by state law fire departments are responsible to investigate every fire Depositions are not FUN Know ▫ NFPA 921- Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation ▫ Amendment IV – unreasonable search and seizure ▫ Amendment V – Due process of law ▫ Amendment VI – Speedy trial, counsel
  25. 25. Basic Responsibilities for Fire Investigations • • • • • • • Michigan v. Tyler – reasonable period of time Michigan v. Clifford- search warrant Fire investigators- interview Spoliation of evidence Chain of custody Documentation Types of evidence – Demonstrative, Photograph/Illustrative, and Testimonial
  26. 26. Basic Responsibilities for Fire Investigations • Testimonial Evidence▫ Fact witness ▫ Expert witness  Federal rules of evidence  Daubert v. Merrell Dow