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  1. #1
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    Default Fire/Arson Investigator Were To Start

    Let me start by saying I am 21 years old and 5 years into the fire service not hardley enough to be seasoned. I have worked for a combination department as a driver/operator and oversee all preplans and work with the county fire marshals office to do inspections in our primary response district. Currently my department only offers part time so I work full time for the county EMS service as a paramedic. My career goal is to become an fire/arson investigator for the SBI here in North Carolina. I know that the SBI is an law enforcement based organization so I have applied for a large city police department as an inexpirenced officer so I can get an law enforcement background. I am currently enrolled in a 4 year fire science program with a minor in arson investigation. I am takeing all the arson and investigation and inspections classes that I can find but I want to know that I am on the right track or am I way left of were I should be. I was wondering if anyone had advice on what to do as far as career/school and were I should proceed from here.

    Let me add I am newly married with a little girl to be born September 11th of this year and don't have the option to move or go to school full time

    Thanks for any and all input

    Kyle


  2. #2
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    Smile

    Kyle:

    I was working yesterday with an investigator from North Carolina and he told me that the Univ. of NC at Charlotte is developing a fire protection engineering type degree that will be available online. I know no other details but I am sure it is something you can research on the net. As far as advice from myself, focus more on education versus training. Fire, physical, and chemical sciences are a must for any fire investigator these days and certainly in the future. Training will come with time. Get a copy of NFPA 921 and read it, especially if you are having trouble falling asleep at night.

  3. #3
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    Default New Investigator

    Don't overlook the free training at the National Fire Academy. Of course it is becoming more difficult to get into the Fire/Arson Origin & Cause class (R206) there, but it is cutting edge and is the platform to take the remainder of the arson program classes. You need to pad yourself with courses in fire investigation not just a degree. I have a degree and it doesn't do squat except to say I have it. If you want to get a FPE degree great, but be aware that is great for FPE's not people who want to be fire investigators. I was just in a class with a gal who had a FPE degree and some other degrees and her lack of experience and training in fire investigations really showed. I personally think you should get your degree but focus on getting all the fire investigation specific training you can. Many classes are offerred through colleges, state fire marshals, IAAI chapters etc. Most chapter training is pretty cheap or at least reasonable. When it comes down to it, your CV should be heavy in fire investigation, forensics with college/university degree to boot. Of course, experience comes over time.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jtcollier View Post
    Don't overlook the free training at the National Fire Academy. Of course it is becoming more difficult to get into the Fire/Arson Origin & Cause class (R206) there, but it is cutting edge and is the platform to take the remainder of the arson program classes. You need to pad yourself with courses in fire investigation not just a degree. I have a degree and it doesn't do squat except to say I have it. If you want to get a FPE degree great, but be aware that is great for FPE's not people who want to be fire investigators. I was just in a class with a gal who had a FPE degree and some other degrees and her lack of experience and training in fire investigations really showed. I personally think you should get your degree but focus on getting all the fire investigation specific training you can. Many classes are offerred through colleges, state fire marshals, IAAI chapters etc. Most chapter training is pretty cheap or at least reasonable. When it comes down to it, your CV should be heavy in fire investigation, forensics with college/university degree to boot. Of course, experience comes over time.
    Quite wrong on one point. There is a great need for FPE's in fire investigation. Many fire investigators I encounter are trained in the basics of 921, but cannot explain things like fire spread, the effect of fire on materials, fire development, the effect of fuel package configuration and location on the fire event, etc. A fire investigator with an FPE degree would be in very high demand.

    I am involved in the investigation of the huge fire in Conshohocken, PA (that's all I can say about it). That investigation will revolve around the investigative efforts of many FPE's to explain how that fire got as bad as it was.

    Get your FPE if you want to make a lucrative living in this field.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  5. #5
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    Default Fpe

    "Quite wrong on one point. There is a great need for FPE's in fire investigation. Many fire investigators I encounter are trained in the basics of 921, but cannot explain things like fire spread, the effect of fire on materials, fire development, the effect of fuel package configuration and location on the fire event, etc. A fire investigator with an FPE degree would be in very high demand."

    George; sounds like they never got the correct training from day one. Even ole firefighter 1 should handle most of those issues you say.


    George has a great point; become an FPE. I am discussing my role as the meat and potatoes investigator; you don't need to be an FPE to do that. We ocassionaly rely on FPE's for cases that fall within thier scope, but we don't need our FPE's to be fire investigators and we don't need our fire investigators to be FPE's (they can be). definetly would be bonus however for them and us. The only 'dual roled' one I have run into was at NFA, and she was a so called 'fire investigator', more than likely self proclaimed as more and more of the story came out at the pub as the weeks went by. Highly intelligent person and very nice to be around. I am sure that an FPE who has fire investigation training and the experience with it would be a hot item.

    Of course I do work with an FPE that does hazmat, but I am almost sure he isn't doing fire investigation otherwise I would be jobless.

    I have a BS in Public Admin; that is not an FPE and I am making a great living and really was doing so before I had my degree. If you want to be an FPE, go for it. The point was not that you need to be an FPE. The point was you don't have to be one! Beyond that, reading the context of the original post; it sure sounds like a fella that wants to obtain all the fire/arson training he can in order to become a fire investigator. FPE was a part of it.

    Do you have your FPE George?

    JT Collier

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jtcollier View Post
    "Quite wrong on one point. There is a great need for FPE's in fire investigation. Many fire investigators I encounter are trained in the basics of 921, but cannot explain things like fire spread, the effect of fire on materials, fire development, the effect of fuel package configuration and location on the fire event, etc. A fire investigator with an FPE degree would be in very high demand."

    George; sounds like they never got the correct training from day one. Even ole firefighter 1 should handle most of those issues you say.


    George has a great point; become an FPE. I am discussing my role as the meat and potatoes investigator; you don't need to be an FPE to do that. We ocassionaly rely on FPE's for cases that fall within thier scope, but we don't need our FPE's to be fire investigators and we don't need our fire investigators to be FPE's (they can be). definetly would be bonus however for them and us. The only 'dual roled' one I have run into was at NFA, and she was a so called 'fire investigator', more than likely self proclaimed as more and more of the story came out at the pub as the weeks went by. Highly intelligent person and very nice to be around. I am sure that an FPE who has fire investigation training and the experience with it would be a hot item.

    Of course I do work with an FPE that does hazmat, but I am almost sure he isn't doing fire investigation otherwise I would be jobless.

    I have a BS in Public Admin; that is not an FPE and I am making a great living and really was doing so before I had my degree. If you want to be an FPE, go for it. The point was not that you need to be an FPE. The point was you don't have to be one! Beyond that, reading the context of the original post; it sure sounds like a fella that wants to obtain all the fire/arson training he can in order to become a fire investigator. FPE was a part of it.

    Do you have your FPE George?

    JT Collier
    I am bewildered as to why you are being so defensive. You need to go back and read my post again.

    I am a meat and potatoes investigator. I have a BS in Fire Science. I also make a great living. I do not have my FPE for one reason. I could not hack the math.

    My post was to let you guys know that there is a place-a big place-for FPE in the fire investigation world. I work for an organization that employs several that work exclusively on fire investigations. We also employ EE's, ME's and PE's that also work on fire investigations.

    Even a meat and potatoes fire investigator with years of experience can't do this job alone. An effective fire investigation that is going to pass a Daubert Challenge must employ specialists when the loss is complex. That is a prominent theme of NFPA 921. Two specific areas where a FPE would be vital to a fire investigative team is as an expert in the science of fire spread on materials (something the meat and potatoes fire investigator is not qualified to do) and computer fire modelling.

    I NEVER said that you had to be an FPE to do this job. I was simply encouraging someone to follow a career path that would be lucrative. I was also enlightening people involved in fire investigation who may not realize it that FPE's can be a very integral part of the fire investigative team. Try to show me where what I posted is a bad thing.

    One last thing: The living an FPE will make will be far better than almost all meat and potatoes fire investigators.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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