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  1. #1
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    Default New to investigation, have some questions

    Hi all, i am new to the whole fire investigation scene and i have some questions.....i actually just finished my class and have been thrust right into the world of investigation. The weekend after i finished the class, we had a house explosion which appears to be related to a natural gas leak at this point, but no definitive conclusions have been made yet. I was lucky enough to be able to shadow and do some assisting at this scene, but where do you start on something like that, especially when its your first time in the field. And later that week, a neighboring dept. had a total loss structure fire which we were called to for mutual aid. The chief wanted me to help with determination, but being i am still so new, and am not a part of a county team yet or anything, i passed. My question on this one is again, the place was a total loss with next to nothing left recognizeable, and burn all over. Where might you start in this type of situation.....at least so i have an idea for next time til i get more experience under my belt. Any input will be greatly appreciated, but smartasses will be ignored. Just looking to get my feet wet and get a better understanding for where i am going with this. Thanx all.


  2. #2
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    OK...where to start? First and foremost congratulations on completing the investigation course. Now back to the point.

    1. The house explosion. You did correct by shadowing someone with more experience. Having not been on the scene, I cannot tell you where you should start this investigation. It is always better to start from the least damage to the most damage. Sometimes this may not be possible, as I suspect from your statement. At times you must just go with your instinct on where to begin. If possible talk to any residents or bystanders and see what they observed. Make sure to take good field notes. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance from other investigators.

    2. Which Chief asked for your assistance? Was it your Chief or the Chief from the other department. Either way it sounds like they were offering you the chance to get in and get some experience. It does not matter if you are part of a county team as long as you are not there freelancing. It seems that the Chiefs on the scene have some confidence in your abilities and were willing to give you a chance. As I stated before check with the residents and bystanders as to what they observed. Another good source if information is the first on firefighters. Where was the fire? What color was the smoke and flames? Did they notice anything out if the ordinary during the response? Did they encounter any difficulty in the extinguishment? And anything else they want to add.

    Just remember that fire investigation is one of the most difficult crimes to get a convection. It is also a continual learning process that must be followed. Every fire will be a challange that needs to met head-on. Some will be difficult and some will be easy. If at all possible follow someone with experience until you feel that you are ready to take the lead. When you get to that point, have an experienced investigator follow you. This way the investigation will be conducted in a manner that can be used as a learning tool. He/she will also be able to advise you in the event that you miss something.

    Hope this help is some way. Good luck.
    K-9 hunt, the ultimate challange.
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  3. #3
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    Default

    Where to start?

    1. Interview people
    2. Interview some more people
    3. Go back and ask some more questions

    You will never be able to get the cause of most fires simply by looking at the structure. You need to talk to victims, witnesses and fire fighters/cops.EMTs'. You need to reconstruct the events and answer this querstion: "What is different today than yesterday that allowed this fire to happen today"?

    One class does not make you an investigator. You need many more. Try www.cfitrainer.net. Then join the IAAI (www.firearson.com) and your local chapter. Avail yourself of any and all training opportunities that arise. "Shadow" not only the other public sector guys, but also follow the private insurance guys around. Get a copy of NFPA 921. Read it. Mark it up. Carry it. Learn it. Follow it.

    All of those things you know absolutely for sure right now will be very grey areas once you get some experience.

  4. #4
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    Default new to investigation

    All of the coments above are very good and it will be very flushtrating at times. ALWAYS use "STILL UNDER INVESTIGATIN" or "undetermind at this time". Unless U R one hundred and ten persent sure U have a closed case??
    Some times insurance co. can be of help. I had a case that I had this subject dead to right that he set his boat on fire. I had no co-operation from someone that would be able to put this man behind bars, but the insurance co denied the claim and if I am not mistaking he has been put on some kind of list to other insurance co. I don't know if that was good or not.

    Always keep record of everything that was said and done

    DON'T give in -- or give up!!

  5. #5
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    Thanx for all the tips guys. I know that one class doesnt make me an investigator. I plan to take the other specialized classes as well. I hope to get the experience i need as well. I hope to move up and learn a lot and become a competent investigator. Now i know i have someplace i can go to look for advice and such when needed too, thanx much!!

  6. #6
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    South River, Ontario Canada
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by FireSlayer1098
    Thanx for all the tips guys. I know that one class doesnt make me an investigator. I plan to take the other specialized classes as well. I hope to get the experience i need as well. I hope to move up and learn a lot and become a competent investigator. Now i know i have someplace i can go to look for advice and such when needed too, thanx much!!
    I personaly like to start by a complete walk around at a distance then work my way in from the least amount of fire damage to the most. When possible I try not to speak withany witnesses until I have completed my initial assesment. That aloows me to come up with my own theory with out being clouded by witnesses owners or firesetters might be telling me. In our area we secure our own scenes so I make sure that witnesses are not able to watch what we are up to so that we do not tip our hat.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ristomaki
    I personaly like to start by a complete walk around at a distance then work my way in from the least amount of fire damage to the most. When possible I try not to speak withany witnesses until I have completed my initial assesment. That aloows me to come up with my own theory with out being clouded by witnesses owners or firesetters might be telling me. In our area we secure our own scenes so I make sure that witnesses are not able to watch what we are up to so that we do not tip our hat.
    Dangerous approach to start developing theories until you have all the information. There is no way in the worls to gather enough data to "come up with your own theory" until you have examined the scene, spoken to wtnesses and victims. as well as conducted background investigation. Then, and only then, is it time to start developing "your own theory". Anything developed prior to having all the info is called bias.

    Source? NFPA 921

    4.3.5
    4.3.7
    4.4.3.1
    4.4.5

  8. #8
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    Great advice from all; I would underscore interviewing as some investigation are simply interview-driven, particlarly explosions, total losses, and collapses. Witness who first reported the fire and first knockdown crew are key interview. Also, did the explosion go high order? Do you have a deflagration or a full out explosion, foundation damage? Where did the debris land? More on one side? Any pictures/video from the aerial?

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