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  1. #1
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    Default When should you call the FM?

    So our office is working on a plan/SOP for when the fire companies should be contacting the FMs Office. (This goes for the guys that pull double duty with L&I.) With out getting into details based on what we have been seeing and hearing our offices feels it should be contacted for some things that we aren't.

    So here is what I am looking for. What are your guys SOPs for what you get called for? Sorry to the private guys, you might not be able to help too much. Aside from the obvious "working structure fire" or the blatantly obvious things.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


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    We put a good amount of faith in our company officers so he/she should have the discretion on calling for an investigator. The scene is the company officer's and/or district-battalion chief's once they assume command. If they have tried to determine origin and cause (O & C) and think it is intentionally set, then they should call. If they just can't determine O & C after looking at the scene, then they should call. If they are getting conflicting stories, then I would suggest calling. I would think most promotional tests have IFSTA Cause and Origin or something close, so the officer in charge should have some basic knowledge of O & C. I know our office doesn't have a problem coming out, especially when some effort was made to determine O & C. If we go out for a fire and the homeowner was a smoker, had been smoking and left unattended smoking materials right where the fire started, then that is an instance where we should have been left in service for something a little more pressing. We make vehicle fires if the fire crew thinks it was incendiary. We only make trash/grass fires if there are witnesses and/or suspects. If our PD makes something without the fire department on scene and it is fire-related, they also can call us. $0.02

  3. #3
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    Your arrogance towards private guys borders on ignorance. Virtually all private guys are retired public guys and have vast knowledge in this area. Guys like me. Too bad for you.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    I am not trying to offend. I merely stated what I did about the private guys because I have met several who are not retired from public jobs.

    I am looking for help from guys who work in the public area now and those who are retired from it. Hope this clears it up.
    Last edited by LtDanDaFireman; 01-22-2009 at 06:23 AM.

  5. #5
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    Here is my input, if your officers are conducting what I will call preliminary origin and cause fire investigations. What are their qualifications (NFPA 1033)? Do your officers complete the preliminary origin and cause investigation in accordance with the guidelines of NFPA 921 and state laws.
    There are even more changes coming down the road very soon with NFPA 1201 that may specifically address fire investigations in the public sector. If your company officer makes a bad call he/she could be open to personal liability same as private investigators. It doesnít happen often that I know of but public investigators and their departments are being sued and they are losing in civil court.
    The is a push by some members of the NFPA 921 committee to add a requirement that public departments must secure evidence that might be needed by the insurance company for subrogation.
    Fire departments for decades have operated just as you have described. Call the fire investigator only when the company officer deems it necessary. It has worked great for years. Its a great way to control the budget. However times are changing and so we must change to.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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    Quote Originally Posted by cubbie View Post
    The is a push by some members of the NFPA 921 committee to add a requirement that public departments must secure evidence that might be needed by the insurance company for subrogation.
    It would just be nice to get them to stop throwing stuff out the window during overhaul!

  7. #7
    CFEI / CFII cubbie's Avatar
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    What percent of all fires are ever investigated by your department investigator? I know one local department in my area that only investigated (3) three percent of the nearly 600 fires they had last year.
    National averages say around (6) Six percent of all fires are arson. So the question I asked them was,
    How many arson fires were never investigated by the department investigators?
    Unqualified people tend to be blamed fires on what they least understand.
    Leaving fire investigations to unqualified company officers has it down falls.
    What are you willing to live with? Using national averages my local department had 18 arson fires they never investigated. They are satisfied with that number.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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    Kind of scary statistics. I just did some quick guess work and these are the numbers. 4 percent of fires were looked at. 33 using the 6% would be arson, which is more then what we looked at.

    Usually when the overhaul starts we are in there at time.

    So I digress to my original question. When should you call the FM? My office pulls double duty and we have a few things in mind trying to see what other guys are doing.

  9. #9
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    If you're a fan of Phoenix F.D., here's their SOP:

    http://phoenix.gov/fire/20213.pdf

    Use it as a guide, discuss with your Company Officers and see what needs should be addressed. As an investigator, you have a view of needs that is sometimes alien to the guys on the truck.

    My chief will usually back me if I can articulate a change/why it is needed. Make SURE you address that shovelin stuff out the window during overhaul. The need for an investigator should be made before that happens....

    Google is absolutely a resource when its time to revamp SOPs.

    ...and always remember...the private guys are your friends too, unless of course the dark side has consumed them...

  10. #10
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    We are automatic on any fire greater than a single alarm or a suspicious package. Other than that, it is at the discression of the OIC and our department guidelines say if they are unable to determine the O&C, there is an injury related to the fire, or they are indications of a set fire, they are to call for us.

    We have approximately 1500 fires per year and we investigate approximately 400 of them. Included are car, brush, and trash as well as structure fires.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtDanDaFireman View Post
    When should you call the FM?
    This would seem to be a simple question, but I think the words keep getting in the way. The questions that I think you are looking to have answered are as follows:

    To the Firemashals: 'Do you have an agreement with the Incident Commander / Company Officer on when you get called and how is that working?'

    To the Firefighters: 'Do you have an agreement with the FMO on when to call, and how is that working?'

    To Past Firemarshals: 'How did thing work back when you were on the private side?'

    To Anyone Else: 'Do you have any input on this topic?'

    As a firefighter and IC and someone who works with the local FM, we have dispatch contact the FMO whenever the call is going to be coded as a 100 series incident in NFIRS. The FMO usually will either respond or call the IC to discuss and then decide whether to respond.

    Brian

  12. #12
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    Technology has changed and increased dramatically in reach years. Fire scenes are becoming more complex. The fire investigation community has recognized this and adapted our methodology to meet these changes. In 1998 NFPA 921 had a total of 167 pages with 20 chapters. Ten years later the 2008 NFPA 921 has 305 pages with 28 chapters. The next edition will have additional material added.
    The fire service as a whole is overdue for a major paradigm shift in the way it functions. The Fire Marshalsí division being one of the areas that needs to change. Public investigators generally only investigate a small percentage of the fires that occur in their area of responsibility. In a perfect world every fire scene would be investigated using the scientific method by someone who is qualified to do so in accordance with the NFPA 1033 Standard.
    You need to investigate fires that are not arson. This will give you a stronger base of experience to call upon to render your opinion as to the origin and cause of all fires you investigate.
    A large number of fire departments follow the policy of calling the Fire Marshal when the fire officer believe its arson or the fire officer doesnít know. This is a policy that is based solely on control the departmentís budget. The fire service embraced this doctrine over 50 years ago. This was a time when building construction and the contents in building were drastically different than they are today. It was a time when a fire officer could more easily and correctly render an opinion as to the origin and cause of a fire. It was a time before NFPA 921 and Duabert. It was a time when "it is because I said so" was accepted by the court.
    It is time to change this doctrine. Fire departments and company officers today are facing greater scrutiny for their actions. I know of a fire scene were four people died. The fire was called accidental due heating system failure by the fire officers. The private investigator for the heating system manufacture had the heating system inspected, re-energized and found that it functioned normally after the fire. Three weeks after the fire a different fire investigator was called to the scene. He finds pour patterns throughout the house and he takes samples that come back hot. He reviews the medical examiners report. The cause of death was ruled smoke inhalation. The private investigator reviews x-rays and finds bullet fragments in the skull area of each of the victims. Let me add that he also found the mains of a handgun at the scene with four rounds expended. His investigation took place after the funerals.
    Here is my question. Is this fire department guilty of malpractice because their investigation was completed by someone who was not qualified to conduct an origin and cause investigation?
    Itís time that fire marshalsí start investigating all fires.
    Last edited by cubbie; 01-26-2009 at 04:47 PM.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

  13. #13
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    I will try it this way:


    To the Fire Mashals: 'Do you have an agreement with the Incident Commander / Company Officer on when you get called and how is that working?'

    To the Firefighters: 'Do you have an agreement with the FMO on when to call, and how is that working?'

    To Past Firemarshals: 'How did thing work back when you were on the private side?'

    To Anyone Else: 'Do you have any input on this topic?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtDanDaFireman View Post
    I will try it this way:


    To the Fire Mashals: 'Do you have an agreement with the Incident Commander / Company Officer on when you get called and how is that working?'

    To the Firefighters: 'Do you have an agreement with the FMO on when to call, and how is that working?'

    To Past Firemarshals: 'How did thing work back when you were on the private side?'

    To Anyone Else: 'Do you have any input on this topic?
    That's what happens when you insult the people who had the most knowledge of this subject and would've helped you. Oh well.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

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    George,

    I am sorry that you were offended by my post. As for coming across arrogant and ignorant towards the private guys, neither was my intention. Sorry if you took it that way. That statement was made because most of the private investigators I have run into are not retired from the public sector. I have ran into alot of Chemists and Engineers whom stated they never spent a as a firefighter or local FM. Maybe now you see where I am coming from.

    If you still do not want to provide imput, fine. However despite the few post on here I have received a large number of PM's from public and private guys providing valuable impute.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LtDanDaFireman View Post
    George,

    I am sorry that you were offended by my post. As for coming across arrogant and ignorant towards the private guys, neither was my intention. Sorry if you took it that way. That statement was made because most of the private investigators I have run into are not retired from the public sector. I have ran into alot of Chemists and Engineers whom stated they never spent a as a firefighter or local FM. Maybe now you see where I am coming from.

    If you still do not want to provide imput, fine. However despite the few post on here I have received a large number of PM's from public and private guys providing valuable impute.
    Yeah, OK. Then you don't get to too many fires, do you?

    If you got so much input, why do you keep coming back begging for more?
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  17. #17
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    Last year we had 500 plus calls in town. Out of that 27 calls were investigated. I think of total of 5 instances where I was contacted by an insurance investigator, about 75% of the time they had no fire service experience.

    I am not begging for information. Most of the responses I received where following the most recent post I made. Prior to that I received few useful responses.


    Give me a break this is getting a bit petty now.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtDanDaFireman View Post
    Last year we had 500 plus calls in town. Out of that 27 calls were investigated. I think of total of 5 instances where I was contacted by an insurance investigator, about 75% of the time they had no fire service experience.

    I am not begging for information. Most of the responses I received where following the most recent post I made. Prior to that I received few useful responses.


    Give me a break this is getting a bit petty now.
    You're some investigator. 3.75 times you were contacted by someone you claim to be non-fire service and you have enough data to trend an entire industry. Wow.

    Do you inquire to these people whether or not they have prior fire service or law enforcement experience before you talk to them? I'm just asking because that is not something I usually volunteer or am asked about when I call a FD.

    5 fires? I usually investigate that in a week.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  19. #19
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    George,
    Donít let people get to you so easily. Everyone does not know your background and level of expertise in our profession.
    LtDanDaFireman,
    You have to understand that most private investigators donít talk to you for any number of reasons.
    1. No contact information available, especially with volunteer fire departments.
    2. Insurance adjuster has already talked to the property owner.
    3. Now not to hurt your feelings, but 95% of the reports generated by fire departments are worthless information with regards to my fire investigation. Most public investigator reports donít even include a diagram of the fire scene because they didnít do one. There are generally very few photos and no photo log. As such useless red flags starts going up while investigating the fire most private investigators donít want your report. Again not trying to hurt your feelings but facts or facts.
    You may be an exception, but a lot of public investigators only look at a dozen or less fire scenes a year. To be the best fire investigator you can be you need to look at as many fires as possible. You will learn something new or re-enforce something you have already learned the more fire scenes you work. This is why I believe the fire marshalís office should investigate every fire. This practice that public investigator have of only call me whenÖ.. only hurts their ability to be competent fire investigators.
    Now you said 75 percent don't have fire service background. I don't know the actual breakdown. I come from a fire service background so I feel very qualifed to make this statement. The best fire investigators I have every work with come from a law enforcement background. I work for a retired ATF CFI/CES. They have a skill set that is those in the fire service don't. You have to have engineers. They have a skill set that those in the fire service don't. If you want to be a more competent investigator you need to work with and learn for these people. You can't hold yourself as being more qualifed because you come for a fire service background. To do so is foolish.
    Last edited by cubbie; 01-28-2009 at 04:44 PM.

    When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
    "God and the firemen" is the people's cry;
    But when 'tis out and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
    ~Author unknown, from The Fireman's Journal, 18 Oct 1879

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    George,
    I am speaking from my experiences only. I am not stating trends of an industry. You are taking what I said out of context again. As for your other question about my inquisition of the experience of private investigators, I don't. One thing that happens when people of similar professions get together is they talk shop and I am sure you are well aware of that already. I am fairly new to this profession so some of the more seasoned guys don't mind sharing some of experiences with me that helped them be successful. I know you are a highly qualified individual and I by no means am trying to offend you.

    Cubbie,
    I understand and completely agree with your points. And trust me you didn't hurt my feelings. I recognize the "quality" of the incident reports generated by the local companies can often be about as useful as a fire truck without a crew. I know my reports are not things to write home about but in talking to the more experiences, training, and seeing what goes back and forth on here they are improving. I agree completely with the statements about "only call me when" and law enforcement vs fire service experience vs other skill sets.


    The breakdown goes like this. 1 retired trooper (former state FM), 2 engineers, and 2 chemists. Prior to this year I personally had not dealt with any private investigators.

    I have a very divers background/education and have a good working relationship with our local PD, other FMs who are retired LEO's and good friends with a few engineers/scientist. Do I claim to be a world class fire investigator, No. Do I claim to be an expert on fire investigation, Hell no. I am an educated individual who has shown the basic competencies to be able to perform the job I do effectively. Do think I am an exception, no. 2007 produced 7 investigation reports and the following year 27. Fluke? Fire prevention slacking? Maybe.

    The point and purpose of this was to see how everyone else does it or has done it in the past. Not to get into a ****ing match. Just trying to get some information to help improve my little part of the world.

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