An Overview of Forensic Fire Investigation

Forensic Fire Investigation Services is the investigation of fire-related cases to uncover the cause, fire cause (s) and ways, therefore proper preventive measures can be undertaken to prevent the re-occurrence of the same fire incident(s). The services of a Fire Detection, Fire Analyst, Fire Science Technologist, and other specialists working in the field of forensic science provide the exact understanding of what happened during the fire. They provide effective testimony as regards to the cause and other circumstances surrounding the occurrence of the fire. Such services provide the essential service of investigating the cause of a fire and performing accident reconstruction in order to establish or reconstruct the cause of an accident.

Role of Fire Investigators

Fire investigators play an important role in determining the possible causes of fires.

  • They help to find the probable source of a fire.
  • In many cases, they help to save lives of people involved in an accident.
  • If their reports are correct, victims can claim compensations and legal claims based on the findings of the forensic fire investigation.
  • In many situations, it is not possible to determine the possible source of a fire based on physical evidence and witness statements.

Types of Investigations Performed

There are different kinds of investigations conducted by forensic fire investigation services.

  • home renovation cases,
  • commercial building collapse,
  • electrical fire,
  • gas-line explosion,
  • flue gas fire and
  • aircraft accident investigation.

Each of these requires various types of specialized equipment and training of fire experts. There are also specialized facilities where the service providers conduct specialized investigations.

Chimney Rake

One of the specialized tools used by a forensic fire investigation service is a Chimney rake. This equipment is a special type of rake that looks like a large broom with long handles and an extending handle that is intended to pick up embers off chimneys. They have been found to be quite useful in many cases. One such example is where a house owner might have had a fire in his house and the embers from the burning house may have travelled to the chimney. The expert witness will use the chimney rake to sift through the smoke to find the remains of the house owner’s burnt house.

Heat Gun

Another specialized tool in the arsenal of fire experts used by fire investigators is a heat gun. Heat guns are another tool that can be used for heat signature analysis in cases such as flue gas fire and aircraft accident investigations. The investigator will aim the heat gun at any area of interest in the site to conduct the heat signature analysis. These tools are similar to those used by firefighters to collect samples of dust, soil, and other matter that may be indicative of a fire. The investigator can use a combination of tools to conduct an effective forensic fire investigation.

Smoke Detectors

When a disaster or incident occurs, the very first thing that comes into the mind of a person is usually the smell. Smoke, or lack thereof, may often be the clue that tells an investigator if the source of the fire was contained within the building. Smoke detector based forensic failure analysis investigations are used to confirm if smoke detectors are functioning properly. In some cases, a “diverted” smoke signal may also be present, which means that it did not originate from any particular source in the building. Usually, these “diverted” signals are very difficult to identify. Fire scientists who perform these forensic examinations also use sniffer dogs to find other signs of fires originating from sources outside the building.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If the fire has not spread from its original source to all parts of the premises, a carbon monoxide detection device may be used to verify the presence of a fire at a particular site. Carbon monoxide (CO) monitors are normally placed at strategic places in the business or residential structure to monitor the level of carbon monoxide at any given time. Fire investigators also make use of special cameras and video equipment to observe the movements in and around a certain site. They do this by setting up angled cameras on poles in strategic locations, and use other tools, such as computers and infrared technology, to analyze and document data gathered. If a discrepancy is detected, it is essential for the investigator to document it, since he or she may need it in court.

Investigation Report and Claim

Experts from Origin and Cause involved in the field of forensic investigation of fires may testify on behalf of a victim or a party that has been injured or killed as a result of a fire or may provide expert testimony regarding the cause of the fire, its origins, or the cause and origin of smoke or other emissions that are otherwise excluded as relevant in resolving disputes between parties about the causes of fire. For instance, if an investigator determines that a particular fire was caused by electrical problems in the heating system of a commercial establishment, he or she may testify as an expert in a lawsuit concerning that claim. Many cases involving injury claims based on the results of fires may involve experts from the field of bioforensics assisting fire investigators. These experts examine burned human remains, which are then submitted for forensic identification.