In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.
By Adrian Cales
Fire Investigator, Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Past Chief, Paramus (NJ) Fire Department
“Fire Investigation Essentials: The Complete Fire Scene Examination”
Monday, April 18, 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Fire investigation often has been a “forgotten stepchild” within the fire service. The evolution of the fire scene investigation for origin and cause has an all-new meaning since National Fire Protection Association 921, A Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations. Most fire investigators thought of NFPA 921 more as a passing fancy than as a standard that would have longevity and a lasting impact on how fire investigations are conducted. The 2014 edition of NFPA 921 is very different from the versions of the 1980s, the 1990s, or even five or 10 years ago.
In addition, NFPA 1033, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator, and NFPA 1037, Standard on Fire Marshal Professional Qualifications, explain criteria for the qualification of fire investigators. Although NFPA 921 is still a “guide,” some areas of the country are pushing for the NFPA to adopt it as a “standard” as well.
Arson convictions have been overturned because they were based on the investigative methodology used at the time, which some now consider “junk science.” Before, fire investigation was all about eliminating everything that wasn’t the cause and, often, the investigator offering his opinion as to what he thought the cause was. It’s a whole different process now. This class is intended to bring the fire investigative community up to date on these changes so members can be prepared, ready, and qualified for the next investigation they conduct.