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Chapter 9


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Chapter 9

  1. 1. Fire Prevention Through Investigation Chapter 9
  2. 2. Objectives <ul><li>Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to: </li></ul><ul><li>Identify local, state, and federal agencies involved in the investigation of fires </li></ul><ul><li>Describe the benefits of effective fire investigation </li></ul><ul><li>Identify the various roles adopted by fire departments to investigate fires </li></ul>
  3. 3. Objectives (cont’d.) <ul><li>Identify agencies and organizations that provide fire investigations training </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss the use of case closure rate and conviction rate as measures of effectiveness for fire investigation units </li></ul>
  4. 4. Early Fire Investigation <ul><li>Determining origin and cause of fires is important in preventing/minimizing impact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Where, why, and how fires start and behave </li></ul></ul><ul><li>By determining whether act is accidental or criminal, we can: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop effective fire prevention programs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deter arson crime by criminal prosecution </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. The Reason for Fire Investigation <ul><li>Crimes against people </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Almost three times the closure rate of crimes against property </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Arson and vehicle theft </li></ul><ul><ul><li>About same statistical probability of arrest, prosecution </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fire service has the greatest stake in the crime of arson </li></ul>
  6. 6. Organizations Involved in Fire Investigation <ul><li>Fire cause determination: traditional function of the fire incident commander </li></ul><ul><li>Jurisdictional conflicts unfortunate/infrequent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal, state, and local officials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Law enforcement and bureau officials </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some fire chiefs steer clear because of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Complexity, resources, and politics </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Investigation by the Fire Department <ul><li>Happens to some extent in almost every jurisdiction </li></ul><ul><li>Dedicated fire investigation units in many metropolitan fire departments </li></ul><ul><li>Legal authority usually originates within a state statute </li></ul>
  8. 8. Fire Prevention Bureau Investigation Units <ul><li>Some fire prevention bureaus perform some or all the fire investigation functions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be assisted by: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>State fire marshal or state or local police department </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Federal authorities: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>U.S postal inspectors, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Fire Prevention Bureau Investigation Units (cont’d.) <ul><li>Possibility of a conviction for arson can be lost if scene not thoroughly processed </li></ul><ul><li>NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Job performance requirements </li></ul></ul><ul><li>NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How-to document for fire investigators </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Certification <ul><li>International Association of Arson Investigators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Certified Fire Investigator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fire Investigation Technician </li></ul></ul><ul><li>National Association of Fire Investigators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Certified Fire Investigation Instructor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. The Investigation Process <ul><li>Involves skills not developed by typical firefighters unless trained </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews of witnesses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow-up investigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Including interviews; examination of records and test results </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Securing and serving search and arrest warrants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Court preparation and testimony </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. FIGURE 9-3 Training for fire investigators includes courtroom testimony ( Courtesy of Duane Perry )
  13. 13. Investigation of the Fire Scene <ul><li>Introductory investigation by initial officer in charge in most fire departments </li></ul><ul><li>Some jurisdictions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fire department not responsible for entire process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Specifically trained personnel assigned </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If incendiary cause: law enforcement agency </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fire department representative who determined the cause becomes expert witness </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Interviews and Follow-up Investigation <ul><li>Fire investigators should receive same level of training as criminal investigators </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-defense, firearms, investigative and legal training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>State fire training academies and marshal offices </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>National Fire Academy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Federal Law Enforcement Training Center </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>FBI Academy </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. FIGURE 9-4 Training in self-defense is a crucial aspect of fire investigator preparation (Courtesy of Duane Perry)
  16. 16. Equipment and Resources <ul><li>Equipment: similar to those used at any crime scene </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Additional items for hazardous scenes and fragile evidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lighting equipment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence containers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shovels </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Screens for sifting debris </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Other specialized items </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Equipment and Resources (cont’d.) <ul><li>Many jurisdictions lack the resources to assign personnel to full-time investigations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Frequency of fires or fiscal constraints </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Inspectigator” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Downside: skills needed are not the same </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Upside: knowledge gained from each discipline will improve performance in the other </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Courtroom Testimony <ul><li>Proving arson </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Often the most difficult task of prosecution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>All accidental causes must be effectively eliminated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lightning strike, electrical, mechanical, and other ignition possibilities </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Possibility that fire was accidental </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enough to move the jury to acquit defendant </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Measuring Effectiveness <ul><li>Case closure rate, not conviction rate </li></ul><ul><li>Investigative work at fire scene leading to arrest/conviction of perpetrator </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Considered successful, even if arson charge is dropped in a plea agreement </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Summary <ul><li>Fire service has the greatest stake in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Determining the origin and cause of fires </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Channeling that information to prosecutors, government regulators, and the public </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Personnel must: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be adequately trained and equipped </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work closely with law enforcement agencies and the court system </li></ul></ul>