Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | The online resource for training fire investigators

CFITrainer.Net ® Podcast

The IAAI and CFITrainer.Net® present these podcasts with a focus on issues relating to fire investigation. With expertise from around the world, the International Association of Arson Investigators produces these podcasts to bring more information and electronic media to fire investigators looking for training, education and general information about fire investigation. Topics include recent technologies, issues in the news, training opportunities, changes in laws and standards and any other topic that might be of interest to a fire investigator or industry professional affected by fire. Information is presented using a combination of original stories and interviews with scientists, leaders in fire investigation from the fire service and the law enforcement community.



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Other Episodes
January 2014 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast takes a look inside the process of revising NFPA 921 and NFPA 1033.

October 2013 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast focuses on the fire research work of Underwriters’ Laboratories, better known as UL.

February 2013 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month we have an interview with George Codding who returned from a recent trip to Saipan and gives us a closer look at the international activities of the International Association of Arson Investigators

Mid Year 2012 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features a mid-year update on the IAAI’s new initiatives and ways for you to get more involved with the organization.

September 2012 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features an in-depth look at the recent live-burn fire experiments exercise conducted on Governor’s Island, New York by the New York City Fire Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Underwriters Laboratory, and the Trust for Governor’s Island.

August 2012 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This is a special edition of the CFITrainer.Net ® podcast previewing the ITC 2013. There’s a new name for the Annual Training Conference from the IAAI now called the International Training conference.

April 2012 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features an interview with Chief Ernest Mitchell, Jr., the US Fire Administrator. Also we will discuss the upcoming ATC, Annual Training Conference, from the IAAI about to happen in Dover, Delaware.

March 2012 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features an interview with ATF Special Agent Billy Malagassi out of the Tulsa, OK Field Office about investigating fires in clandestine drug labs. We also report on NIST’s findings in the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire and IAAI’s Evidence Collection Practicum.

December 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features one of the presenters from this year’s IAAI ATC and see how a single photo broke the Provo Tabernacle fire case.

October 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features an interview with Deborah Nietch, the new Executive Director of IAAI.

July 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features an interview with Tom Fee discussing details of investigating wildland fires.

June 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month's podcast features a lot of exciting things that are happening at CFITrainer.Net®

May 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month highlights the IAAI ATC in Las Vegas and the third installment in the "It Could Happen to You" series.

ATC 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast discusses the upcoming IAAI Annual Training Conference and National Arson Awareness Week.

April 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This podcast announces the release of the program, The First Responder’s Role in Fire Investigation, which teaches first responders how to make critical observations and take important scene preservation actions at a fire scene.

March 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features some of the instructors from the upcoming 2011 Annual Training Conference, to provide a preview of the courses they will be presenting.

February 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features an update on fire grants and an interview with Steve Austin

January 2011 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features the release of the new edition of Fire Investigator: Principles and Practice to NFPA 921 and 1033, new flammability requirements from UL for pre-lit artificial Christmas trees and a growing fire problem in Dubai with factories turned into worker dormitories.

December 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast focuses on home candle fires, lightning punctures in gas piping, and respiratory diseases in the fire services.

November 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features research findings for structural stability in engineered lumber by UL, the ban on antifreeze in residential sprinkler systems, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation of Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tanks.

October 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features high-profile fire cases, why people leave stovetop cooking unattended and how new sensors under development may improve fire research.

September 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features how to use the ATF’s Bomb Arson Tracking System, IAAI Foundation grants, electrical fires and indoor marijuana cultivation.

August 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast focuses on social media as a fire investigation tool, a potential problem with modular home glued ceilings and research from Underwriters Laboratories on the effects of ventilation on structure fires.

July 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast is a roundtable on some of the latest research and technical activities that impact fire investigation, featuring Daniel Madrzykowski (moderator), Steven Kerber, and Dr. Fred Mowrer.

June 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast discusses career advancement, budget cuts and their impact on fire investigation, and the 2010-2016 ATF Strategic Plan.

ATC 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - Follow-up and Interviews from Orlando. Learn about the conference, hear what attendees had to say.

May 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - The second in our safety series called "It Could Happen To You." Our Long-Term Exposure roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal.

April 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - The first of our two-part safety series called "It Could Happen To You." Our roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal.

March 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features a conversation about legislative affairs affecting the fire service with Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Research Institute.

February 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features our interview with a commercial kitchen’s fire expert about what you need to know when you work a commercial kitchen fire.

January 2010 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features a look at preliminary research on corrosion caused by Chinese drywall, a new database focused on fires in historic buildings, a warning on blown-in insulation, and the launch of the new firearson.com web site.

December 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features cooking fires, highlights of the International Code Council’s Annual Meeting on code requirements, including requiring residential sprinkler systems, and an easy way to keep up with recalls from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

November 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features chimney fires, including recent news on surgical flash fires, a proposed national arsonist registry, lightning research and an innovation in personal protective equipment.

October 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast is devoted to Fire Prevention Week.

September 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features the relationship between climate conditions and fire risk, new research on formulating fireproof walls and the latest in IAAI news.

August 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month takes a look at the dangerous combination of summer heat and oily rags, the rise in vacant home fires, and preview research underway on Australia’s devastating "Black Saturday" brush fires.

July 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month features a look at outdoor grill fires, a fatal fire at a homeless camp in Southern NJ, new NIST research on human behavior during building fires, and IAAI news.

June 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features live reports from the 2009 IAAI Annual Training Conference held in May.

May 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This podcast is dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week.

April 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features the NFPA 921 chapter on marine fire investigations and the myth and reality of static electricity as a source of ignition.

March 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month focuses on the rise of the hybrid vehicle and what its unique engineering means for the investigation of vehicle fires, the rash of devastating arson fires in Coatesville, Pennsylvania from December 2008 to February 2009, and news from IAAI.

January 2009 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast focuses on the deepening financial crisis in the US and arson for profit fires, how going green may pose a fire hazard and see how rope lighting may be a source of ignition, and IAAI’s Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony course.

December 2008 CFITrainer.Net® Podcast - This month’s podcast features Christmas tree fires, changes to critical fire investigation publications, the weak economy’s impact on home fires, wind’s effect on structure fires, and ATC 2009.


Transcript

ROD AMMON: And welcome to this podcast for April of 2014 for the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net®. I’m Rod Ammon. Today, we’re going to do two things on the podcast; we’re going to start out by talking to Don Robinson. He’s with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; he’s a Special Agent in Charge currently stationed at the National Center for Explosives Training and Research. It’s located at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. After that, I’ll give you some updates on the training activities of the International Association of Arson Investigators. So, we’re here today with Don Robinson; he’s the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, their national center for explosives training and research, which is in Huntsville, Alabama. Don, thanks for being with us.

DON ROBINSON: Sure Rod, my pleasure.

ROD AMMON: We’re very grateful. I think there are a lot of questions out there about how can I use the ATF, what’s the background of ATF in fire investigation? Could you talk a little bit about that?

DON ROBINSON: We go back as far as the Gun Control Act being passed back in 1968, and part of that legislation included destructive devices which include incendiary devices; Molotov cocktails and other kinds of things that were used. So, there are federal statues going back to that we enforce, actually even before ATF became ATF in the late ‘60s, and then after ’68 you saw the Organized Crime Control Act, which is probably better known as the Explosives Control Act in 1970 come out. And ATF used an interpretation of one of the statutes in that act to include incendiary devices again in kind of a landmark case in ATF at least, in the early ‘70s with an arson case that resulted in a number of deaths down south and actually used those statutes and it was the first support by the courts of us using that interpretation, and that’s really opened the door to us to enforcing the federal statutes, arson as well as explosives. You saw in the mid-to-late ‘70s that arson task force concept was established in ATF. The first task force was in Philly and that carried out to the US Attorney’s Office through the 23 strike force cities across the country by later that year.

ATF established the national response team concept in about 1978, had our first NRT callout in ’79 and really bringing that team concept, a bunch of arson and explosive specialists along with chemists and other support folks establishing these teams. We started out with two teams on either sides of the country and now we have a full complement of national response teams, three regional teams, but folks across the country and can respond to any scene - large fire and arson or explosive scene, working with state and local partners and kind of bringing that team concept to that. You know, we saw the Anti-Arson Act passed in ’82, Church Arson Prevention Act in ’96. So the federal statutes continued to develop and we enforced those, we have some outstanding forensic auditors across the country now that support those complex investigations of fire and arson cases, and even when we transferred over to The Department of Justice from Treasury, after the Homeland Security Act of 2002, we saw the passage of the Safe Explosives Act, which, again, with the nexus between incendiary and explosive devices and a lot of additional controls on explosives. So, we’ve been involved with it for quite a while and I’m very happy to be in the position I am here.

ROD AMMON: So you corrected me with something, and while that’s happened quite a few times over the decade, a lot of people say ATF, now it’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. You want to talk briefly about that?

DON ROBINSON: Sure. With passage of the Homeland Security Act in 2002 you saw a lot of agencies move around and we went from The Department of Treasury to The Department of Justice, so we’re in Justice with FBI, the Marshals and DEA, but along with that, Congress just recognized what we were already doing and make sure that that was brought over with us to DOJ, but our work enforcing explosives statutes and on the regulatory side, the regulation of the explosives industry. But explosives is long in our history and I think they just wanted to recognize that, we kind of joke around it’s the silent E, they left it as ATF for branding and other purposes, but yeah, it is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

ROD AMMON: All right, that helps, thanks. When I look at my history working with you and the folks at the ATF it starts sort of at the end of when you talked about the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, or I guess the beginning of that act, we worked on a project call interFIRE.

DON ROBINSON: That’s right.

ROD AMMON: And that history sort of made a tie-in for me because I was working with other folks as time moved on in local and state training, the International Association of Arson Investigators and some other folks that were actually in the private sector, American Reinsurance and different people were reaching out to local and state folks to increase or improve the fire and investigator training. Can you talk a little bit about how ATF is working to serve investigators?

DON ROBINSON: ATF, we value our partnerships and role in that fire investigation community. We are now, with an internal reorganization, been able to bring our fire and arson programs together again with the explosives here under one roof at... So all the programs are working together, the program managers, division chiefs and we’ve been able to breathe some additional life into some of the programs that we’ve been known for in the past. As I’m talking with you, we’ve got a advanced arson investigation course for our own agents going on downstairs and then we recently did an arson for prosecutors course that for budget and other reasons we hadn’t been able to do, but we’re breathing life back into that program.

Back in the summer, I made a trip out to Maryland and met with the Executive Director and the Board there for IAAI; actually next week I’m heading out to the IAAI international conference to participate in the opening ceremonies there. We’ve got a lot of people that are involved in making presentations and instructors in that conference next week. So we’ve got responsibility for investigation and supporting our local partners. Just wrapped up a national response team to Des Moines, Iowa for a large fire at a historic building in downtown Des Moines and it’s nice to hear how well the folks are working together at the scene. We take that team concept very seriously and we train all of our folks in it and it’s the work we love.

ROD AMMON: It’s nice to hear. Sometimes you know, you hear people talk about oh, the Feds or you see in television the Feds came in and they took over, and what I hear about you guys is that when you get called in, it seems like there’s a good relationship as you were just alluding to out there in the field. What is it that somebody who’s a fire investigator can do to reach out to get help from the ATF?

DON ROBINSON: Yeah, they can start right off contacting their local field office, determining if they have a fire investigator or a CFI, a Certified Fire Investigator, in that group or nearby, many of our groups are what we call general groups. So, usually if it’s outside of a large city they’ve got folks there that have responsibility for all three things, firearms enforcement, explosives and fire and arson. So they can make contact there, they can also contact us here at the... because we can hook them up with some resources out in the field. So, that local contact at the field office is the first step.

ROD AMMON: You know, one of the things I’ve heard in the past is hey, don’t exchange your business cards the first time at the scene. What is that somebody who’s a fire investigator can do to initially develop a relationship with the ATF office?

DON ROBINSON: I would encourage them to introduce themselves at either chapter meetings, get in touch with the local field division office and just kind of introduce themselves. We’ve got a lot of folks out there doing some good work, even outside the CFIs, we have fantastic investigators that specialize and like to work the arson investigations, and they don’t make the origin of cause call, but they specialize in the investigation, and we depend on relationships with our state and local partners. There’s many times it’s a single agent working with his fellow law enforcement and fire investigative personnel and we depend on the team concept, not just on the NRTs but working any case.

ROD AMMON: So I need some help technology, and I had put a bug in your ear about this a little bit, but I was wondering what - what’s going on with technology today? What kind of things can the ATF do to support me with tech?

DON ROBINSON: Our fire research laboratory in Ammendale, Maryland, it’s connected to our national laboratory there, that place is a wealth of support of the local fire investigator. In that complex we have the ability to recreate a scene, to build I know at least a two-story townhouse under a hood in this facility, recreate the scenario from a fire investigation, and we can use that to prove or disprove a witness statement or a defendant’s statement. That thing is there for - not just for ATF investigations but for the state and local investigators to take advantage of also. We have a wealth of fire engineers, electrical engineers that are assigned to the fire research laboratories, CFIs assigned there, our field personnel; work with them all the time, they do training at the fire research lab and that’s a heck of a gem that we have there in Maryland. That’ll support any case in any jurisdiction.

There we’ve got some great case presentation software that we use to document the scenes and pull those things together. We’ve always, in this team concept thing with the NRT, anybody that’s worked with the NRT knows when we leave the scene there’s a copy of everything left with the local and the investigators as well as the ATF agent that requested the team. That, in combination with some real upgrades to our forensic mapping that we do of scenes, and the way that is able to be presented later in court is pretty cool stuff for a jury to see. Now, those are just a couple examples, but man I would really - that fire research lab is something that can support any job out there and it’s a heck of a tool.

ROD AMMON: You know, it’s great the things that you’re doing on a federal level because I can tell when I talk to folks on the local and state, they’re dealing with budget issues or not enough manpower and a fire investigation is, as you well know, can be an awfully dirty, digging kind of experience and knowing there’s somebody out there you can call is probably real welcome.

DON ROBINSON: Sure.

ROD AMMON: And thanks again Don.

DON ROBINSON: Thanks a lot Rod, appreciate it. Thanks for the call.

ROD AMMON: We’re very grateful for the help form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and for Don taking the time to talk to us about the ATF and what they’re doing. The IAAI has a lot of other things going on, the International Training Conference is coming up this week in Las Vegas. There’s more information about the conference at firearson.com. But topline on that is that there’s 120 hours of in-person training and there’s expertise from around the world. There is a keynote presentation about the Station Nightclub fire with John Barylick; he’ll be talking about lessons learned, legal battles and victim’s rights. Another training update, there’s a class on digital forensics in arson investigation coming up at the IAAI’s headquarters in Bowie, Maryland. Again, for more information on that go to www.firearson.com. For the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net®, I’m Rod Ammon. Be well.

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