1. #26
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    I agree, if the box was secured, there was no reason to open it, unless it may have had something to do with investigating the cause of the fire.......
    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.

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    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.

    Quite simple in my area.

    Soon as the Fire Investigators believe they *may* have a crime scene, they withdraw, have a patrolman secure the property, and go find a judge to sign a search warrant.

    Whatever rights they may or may not have under "FD owns the property"...they don't risk going into that grey area. Get the warrant, they don't worry.

    It's hard to believe a locked box would often be seen as either an item needing overhaul...wooden dresser drawers...sure. A locked box that doesn't have any easy way for fire to get inside it, or even if conducted heat did penetrate, lacks the air supply to openly burn and re-kindle?

    It's hard to believe a locked box would often be seen as part of the origin & cause, at least what it's contents are.

    If you have a locked box wires coming out of it...um, I'm backing out of that area thank-you-very-much...for reasons that have *nothing* to do with it may be being a trigger device. And at that point it'll probably end up being investigated by a nice little remote controlled robot and a disruptor.

    If it was used as a weight in some Rube Goldberg contraption, don't need to look inside it, you just go, "Hmmmm, looks like someone set this up to fall on this to start the fire...I think it's time to go get a warrant." And as part of investigating the Rube Goldberg, you might end up opening the box...but by golly you now have a warrant.

    Fire Departments used to take pride in the quality of their overhaul job -- stripped everything out, put the trash in a one pile to wet down, put the salvaged stuff under tarps. Removed the wet wallboard. Yank out the carpets. Man, it was a thing of beauty what a good crew could do.

    We don't do it anymore. Because it's far more valuable to us to preserve the evidence in case this was a crime. And the insurance companies don't mind paying ten or twenty thousand more for ServiceMaster to come in a cleanup the mess and repair some extra water damage...if it lets them catch arsonists who used to get away with $250,000 claims.

    So you just overhaul what you must. Wait for the investigators before you dig up anything you'd like to but don't absolutely have to. Maybe even be willing to set up fire watches. I'd much rather have a good investigation knowing our fire watch will call us back in three hours to help wet down some hotspots...then to know we won't be coming back because we did such an excellent overhaul job there wasn't an ember or lick of evidence left!
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  3. #28
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.
    Sorry...... I had 3 different things going through my head when I was typing that........

    Meant to say that if the box was closed and you didn't have to open it during overhaul or when searching for extension, leave it alone...
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    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.
    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
    No, it's not. A lock indicates that someone has an expectation of privacy. The FD has no more right to violate that expectation of privacy than a police officer does. Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally. It is a seprately secured compartment.

    It is evident to me that you have no screaming notion of what you are talking about. Go get some training on this issue and stop posting nonsense.

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    I am in agreement with the others, it should not have been opened. Plain view, calling in the police. Also if it was some suspicious thing the SFM would also be called. We have also utilized the local "big city" FD to come in and help us as well through mutual aid as they have an FIU branch. We really have no right to be rumaging through anyones personal effects past moving/removing them if needed for salvage and overhaul.
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  8. #33
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    We really have no right to be rumaging through anyones personal effects past moving/removing them if needed for salvage and overhaul.
    Bingo!

  9. #34
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    "If you are where you're supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, you are OK".
    That was the line I was trying to think of... I skimmed over it in your first post I guess.

    I think this sums it up beautifully.
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    No, it's not. A lock indicates that someone has an expectation of privacy. The FD has no more right to violate that expectation of privacy than a police officer does. Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally. It is a seprately secured compartment.

    It is evident to me that you have no screaming notion of what you are talking about. Go get some training on this issue and stop posting nonsense.
    Just so I get this straight...... You are telling me I have no right to open a locked dresser drawer if it is smoldering??
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    QUOTE]Unless that dresser is on fire[/QUOTE]

    Halooooo.
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    Kiwi, my point was that George is reading into what I had posted and assuming things.......

    from when he said
    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.
    and I said

    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
    We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Just so I get this straight...... You are telling me I have no right to open a locked dresser drawer if it is smoldering??
    After this I am through with you. Your a little know-it-all who knows ZIP!

    Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally.
    And, BTW, you have no "right" to do anything at a fire scene. You have a "duty" to protect property and to save lives.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    After this I am through with you. Your a little know-it-all who knows ZIP!



    And, BTW, you have no "right" to do anything at a fire scene. You have a "duty" to protect property and to save lives.
    Did you take your cranky pills???? Did I get under your skin??? Add me to your ignore list, George........
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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    Wow, what a heated topic (pardon the pun)

    I have always been told "if it aint broke, dont touch it, if it aint burning or smouldering, dont touch it" wise words from a fire investigator

    i honestly dont believe that much could be done with this case in a court of law. These fire fighters may have broken their duty and opened a lockbox, which may or may not have been locked, and stumbled upon narcotics. Why were they opening a lock box anyway? unless it was directly involved in the fire, in which case my understanding of money and drugs is that they burn quite nicely, hence no more evidence?

    Lets leave this one for the people who get paid to quabble over what is right or wrong, the courts

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    All case law may vary from state to state, but from what I've read so far I will add my .02 as a LEO (and a FF/EMT-IV).

    The FF's (in my opinion) were acting under their job capacity, but they were not acting upon behalf of law enforcement. If they extinguished a fire and were conducting overhaul on a home and discovered any incriminating evidence, it would be admitted all day long in our courts (in TN). This is obvious in previous court rulings involving homes with meth labs. Our courts are not going to throw out evidence of a meth lab just because FF's found it during firefighting operations. It's one thing to find it while fighting fire, it's another thing to enter the home illegally.

    However, overhaul procedures would not usually include opening boxes that are found. One must look at a couple of things #1 - Did the FF's have a right to be there? Obviously the answer is yes, to preserve lives/property from fire. #2 - What right did the FF's have to open a box? Was the box at any time considered a threat (as far as on fire or catching other things on fire)?

    If any item (drawer, box, etc) is not on fire and doesn't pose a risk to any emergency personnel on scene, you would have a hard time explaining why you are sticking your nose in it. The owners of the home can rummage through their own belongings once the fire threat has been eliminated.

    My standpoint comes from general law enforcement search & seizure as a police officer. I have no training/experience in arson investigation so I will leave that topic to others that have. My advice above is based on basically anything else that's found during a fire that is illegal (drugs, bazookas, whatever).

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