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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.

August 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast

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Transcript

Welcome to IAAI’s August 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This month’s podcast discusses social media as a fire investigation tool. We’ll talk about what social media is, how to access it, and what information of value it may provide to a fire investigator. Then, our two news stories touch on a potential problem with modular home glued ceilings and research from Underwriters Laboratories on the effects of ventilation on structure fires.

Let’s start with the emerging topic of social media. The term social media describes applications and web sites that allow users to interact with each other in a group environment and exchange user-generated content. Popular examples of social media web sites include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Foursquare. These types of sites have become extremely popular and generate volumes of information that may potentially have investigative value. With us to discuss how the fire investigator can take advantage of this information during an investigation is Jane Bozarth. She’s an expert in social media and she’s the author of a new book called Social Media for Trainers. That’s an interesting point for those of you who are involved in instruction and training in fire investigation. Jane also has a background with the North Carolina Department of Justice. Jane, thanks for being with us.

JANE: Sure. Thanks for having me.

Q: So why is it important for fire investigators to understand social media?

JANE: I think it’s important for everybody who is on the internet to understand social media, but I think fire investigators, if they pay attention to the tools, you don’t need to develop expertise in everything, but have a sort of generic understanding of what the tools are, what kinds of things people tend to use them for, what kinds of people tend to be on what different sites I think is all useful in helping you probably gather evidence, gather data, get an understanding of, for instance, where a suspect may or may not have been, get an understanding of a trail of activity leading up to an event. I think it could be very useful, but you do need to have a basic grasp of the different tools and what you can and people do use them for.

Q: Could you briefly explain each of the following major social media destinations and how they work?

JANE: Well I’ll start with Facebook because that’s probably the most popular of the tools at the moment with 500 million users. You know, when you think about a Facebook, those of your listeners who are aware at all about web design may remember that even five or six years ago, if you wanted to have a web page that had pictures and links and maybe some video, maybe some text, that people could comment on you needed pretty much your own - you needed a web designer or you needed web design software, you needed a server, you needed to know how to load your material to that server or have someone do it for you. You know, Facebook has been a huge game changer in that just about every user, with very little help or none at all, can have their own highly customized, highly dynamic web page. You know, they have a really easy access site for posting their status, they can upload video and photos, they can post notes, they can do that kind of things, but think about Facebook under an umbrella. It’s an aggregator that incorporates just about every other tool we can talk about today.

Some things that are probably important to understand about Facebook - I think just about everybody, it’s safe to assume, has seen it. I don’t know that everybody on earth has a profile yet. But while users are allowed to have one profile, they can have multiple Facebook pages or groups for different activities or interests. For instance, I have a profile that’s Jane personal, but I also have pages for my business and for my books and I help manage another page for my high school class reunion group. So you can have lots of multiple pages. When you like a page - it’s just clicking a button at the top of the page - you, by default, are allowing updates from that page to post to your feed. So whenever I log in, if somebody’s put something on the high school site, it will pop up on my Facebook page and I can see what people are talking about. So it’s a good way to disseminate information. Organizations use it to broadcast PR information, StarKist tuna does a lot of promotions with their Facebook page. They give away coupons, they give away recipes, and it’s kind of fun. So it’s a great way to sort of push news in front of people that choose to see that news.

You know, in terms of investigations, when we’re talking about what you can and can’t do with Facebook, you know, your mother was right. I think you can tell a lot about people by the company they keep or by the interests or causes they support. For instance, there has been a lot of talk - well let me just say, you can click, like I said before, to like somebody’s comment or you can like a page or you can like a cause. There was a lot of chatter a while back about a Facebook page for people who were praying for President Obama to die, and you know I think lots of people in that instance clicked like who probably in the weeds would say they are not literally sitting around praying for the President to die, but saying that they liked it means it showed up on their Facebook pages, on their profiles, it showed up on the news feeds of their friends and it’s still there. I think sometimes people don’t always think through implications of something like that. You know, it’s the same with other causes or interests. There’s probably no harm in saying you like the waffle house, but there might be harm in other things that you say you like or don’t like. But, you know, on the internet everything is public and everything is forever. Even if you have this illusion of privacy, if you don’t want somebody to know where you went on vacation, then don’t send a postcard is kind of my moral of that.

What else? Facebook provides sweeping, highly granulated options for privacy, and my experience is that most users don’t understand or make effective use of that. For instance, you can group your friends into lists - like I can have lists for family or work extended relationships, work close relationships, my best friends, and then I can choose which of those lists sees which items I post. So, for instance, I might let everybody see a photo of my new book jacket, but I may only let people on my best friends list see vacation pictures. You can choose to limit your profile to the bare minimum or you can include items like your contact information. Again, I find that people are not making very good use of those options. They seem to have an expectation that Facebook should just know what you want and set everything for you. But really, there’s a lot of user control there.

As far as MySpace goes, it’s in - a lot of ways it’s like Facebook. The market data recently is indicating that it is increasingly losing ground to Facebook. People are moving from MySpace over to Facebook and just recently MySpace announced it was going to start syncing with Facebook. So they must be aware that that’s what’s happening. So it used to be MySpace kind of considered itself the competitor for Facebook and now it appears they’ve thrown in the towel and they’re going to sync the two accounts.

Facebook in general I think is appealing to a slightly older market. College students, but then beyond. You don’t see a lot of grandmothers on MySpace, for instance, but you see them all over the place on Facebook, but, you know, it’s still popular among users. When I talk about the percentage of users changing, I’m still talking about millions and millions of people. You know, there’s been kind of an exodus from MySpace to Facebook, but there are still a lot of users. It still tends to have kind of a music culture connotation, and like Facebook, you know, people can upload multimedia, they can post information, others can comment depending on the settings the user chooses to allow people to see and comment on what they’ve posted. So in a lot of ways it’s very similar to Facebook. I would say probably a little younger and a little more music oriented.

Twitter is my own favorite social media tool of choice. I have been able, in about 18 months I guess, really working at it, to cultivate a very strong responsive network of training and learning professionals, and some others, who are interested in the same things I am interested in. There really is no one in North Carolina who does what I do. There’s no one in state government anyway. And so I have been able to cultivate a really nice network of people who share my interests, who have the problems I have, who work on the projects I work on. So they give me a lot of validation, but they also give me viewpoints I hadn’t considered. I like the diversity of it. Mostly also I find that I have replaced Google with Twitter. When I Google something I might get a thousand links that may or may not be what I want, but I can ask Twitter - my Twitter community a question and I will immediately get an answer right away, and it’s usually an answer to the question, not just more resources to look at on the question.

Twitter is different from most of the other tools in that there is no implication of relationship. You choose to let people see what you’re posting. They can look at it or not. There isn’t this like friend relationship or approval relationship that you see with something like a Facebook or a MySpace. You know, people can choose to see you, you can choose to see them. They can choose to what we call re-tweet you, which is basically quoting you, just copying and pasting more or less what you just said, and then their followers would see that with your name attached to it. But unless you choose to cultivate some kind of relationship, there really - there isn’t one there that there might be - it’s sort of loose connections as opposed to tighter connections that you might see on Facebook.

But, you know, as far as we talk about Twitter in use of investigations, it’s interesting because this morning, a hour before you and I got on the phone, there was a report that Paris Hilton, who just the other day was arrested for cocaine possession you may recall, Paris Hilton was saying that the purse containing the cocaine was not hers. Well she tweeted a picture of it a month ago when she bought it. So, you know, you need to remember when you put it on the internet it’s there forever. So there’s a really excellent of evidence and something that nobody thought would be evidence. Now I don’t know who went back and caught it. I’m guessing since she was a celebrity it was a lot more likely to get - the thing got picked up on that she had tweeted. But she tweeted a picture the day she bought the thing and now she’s claiming it’s not hers. So that’s a really good example.

Q: How about blogs?

JANE: I’m a defender of blogs. For a long time people perceived blogs as nothing but online rants by people who needed to put their journals on the internet, and there is a lot of that, and I would think as an investigator that’s something to look at. If you’ve got somebody who’s clearly just obsessed, you’ve got a Unabomber thing going, you’ve got the guy who just recently held the hostages at the Discovery Channel, you know, if you’ve got years’ worth of blog posts with them ranting about the horrible government or something they perceive is wrong with society, I think that’s a good place to look for evidence. But, you know, a blog, like anything else, is a place that people - you can post your comments and others can respond. But I would think, yeah, if you’re doing an investigation I would look and see if somebody’s been publishing some online manifesto or there’s been lots of talk about a particular racial group they don’t like, a particular neighborhood they don’t like, you know, I would be looking at somebody’s online activity that way.

Q: Why Foursquare?

JANE: Foursquare works through the GPS chips in your phone, in your Smartphone. So your phone knows where you are and if you’re in a location where a vendor has registered, you can automatically just send out a message to your network that says I’m at Starbucks at the corner of 14th and Main. So you’re basically sending this message out either to your immediate group of friends who are on Foursquare with you or you can choose for things to go all over Twitter, all over Facebook, wherever you choose to put them, and now Facebook, just last week, introduced their own version of this called Places where you tell people where you are and they can tag you. I think that the implications for fire investigators should be obvious here. If people are telling you where they are every minute of the day, you could follow them all day long to where they are.

Q: Give us some examples of social media interactions and how they happen and how they might provide information of investigatory value.

JANE: If I were an investigator, I would want to look at social profiles like Facebook or MySpace, I’d want to see who is friends with who. I would be interested to see if people had joined maybe hate groups or if people were making lots of comments about somebody they didn’t like, somebody they intended to get back at, somebody that they wanted to do something about, somebody in the community - a landlord they’re angry with, a store owner that’s been a problem. You know, there’s a difference, and I think, I hope we all know the difference between being irritated with the cable repair people and really being obsessed with not being able to shut up about it. You know, I do think there’s a line there that you can cross. I wouldn’t overreact to every comment, every complaint with a retailer, but, you know, if it gets to be obsessive it might be something worth looking at. You know, just look and see what they’ve posted. The thing with the videos or the pictures, like the Paris Hilton example, people don’t give any thought to what they put online and they, as with Paris Hilton, have very short memories.

Q: How can investigators find out if there might be social media potentially related to a case?

JANE: I would say, first of all, to remember that if there are 500 million Facebook users, the odds are very good if you’re looking at suspects or a group of suspects, somebody’s on Facebook, somebody is involved in social networking at some level somewhere. So I would look and just do a general search around Facebook and Twitter just to see if people are there that are of interest to you. And I would, you know, remember that we’re in an age now where people’s interaction with the internet is very different. You can post your status updates from your phone. Every cell phone - kids have cell phones with video cameras on them. Flip Cameras, I saw at Christmastime this year, were less than $50 at the department stores. So people have a lot of access to technology that they want to use. So I would sort of look around and just see if I’ve got people in mind and see if they’re on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace and see what they’re doing.

But apart from that, you know, remember that the internet is an indexing tool. Never - never forget to Google people. You would be surprised at what will come up. Folks who forgot to protect a comment on Facebook, folks who forgot something they said on Twitter, you might be surprised what will pop up in a Google search just for the person’s name. Search for an event. You know, if a particular fire occurred on January 23rd at the grocery store on 9th Street, Google that and just see what comes up in the search. You know, you may see tweets about it, you may see YouTube related to it. You know, nowadays we have amateur journalists documenting everything. Every fire, every storm, every tornado that hits, and you just never know, there may be amateur video out there that shows people you hadn’t given any thought to. So I would look at what the internet has indexed, and I would pay a lot of attention to that number. The 500 million people on one site is pretty significant. I’d love to see who they are, who their friends are. Again, what they’re participating in, what their causes are, that kind of thing.

Q: There’s a lot of information out there. As you said, there’s 500 million users on Facebook alone. How do you narrow down that information to get what you really need?

JANE: Well there are several things. With Facebook your first thing to look for really would be people. I would look for social profiles, I would look to see who’s there. You can do a search for groups and pages and you will get varying quality of results with that. You know, you will not find a page that says grocery store burning February 23rd on Facebook. You might find Jane Bozarth on Facebook. You would find grocery store burning February 23rd on YouTube in a search, you might find it somewhere else, but you probably wouldn’t - but if you don’t have particular people in mind already, I think Facebook is going to have limited use to start with.

Twitter, on the other hand, you can do a search for topics, you could do a search for people discussing the same thing. There’s a phenomenon on Twitter called hash tags, a tool on Twitter that we use or an approach we use on Twitter, you enter a hash tag item from your keyboard and then follow that by key words, and you could try separate key words. For instance, if I’m looking to see who’s talking about e-learning, I would type hash tag e-learning and just see if other people were having a conversation about that today. The hash tag is a key on your keyboard, it’s what I guess we would call a pound sign on your phone. And people who are engaging in a common conversation around a topic usually will start using the hash tag so that anybody thinking about that can type it in. But you can do a search, there’s a search box on Twitter that you can just type in the name of a person, the name of an event and just see if anything comes up.

Now Twitter - my experience has been the feed will tell you it only goes back a few days. So you may have time limits. If you’re really focused, if you have access, you’ve got people working on a case with you, you might be able to hunt farther back or you might identify, for instance, that Jane Bozarth talked a lot about that fire, let’s go back and look at her for eternity. But, you know, Twitter, it tends to be stuff happening in the moment. If you’re not on it pretty quickly, I don’t know what you’ll find right away. You know, again, YouTube might be a good place.

And one thing I forgot to mention is that you can tag people and photos. That might be important to an investigator. For instance, I could take a video and I could say this is Jane, this is her husband Ken, this is the dog, and it will show up on the video or on a Facebook photo that somebody was somewhere at a particular time with other people. I would think that might be useful for evidence. You’re right though, it’s an enormous amount of information to try to filter through. I will say, in my experience, most people have a favorite thing they like. Like I said earlier, I really like Twitter. Generally that’s where you’re going to find me being more active. I like Facebook fine, but you might have better luck looking at me on Twitter. So again, if you have people in your sights, I’d pay attention to where they - whether they’re on MySpace a lot, whether they do Foursquare all the time and maybe focus down that way.

Thanks for being with us today, Jane. We appreciate your insight.

JANE: Sure. Thank you.

Now, we turn to the news. In the wake of two modular home fires in Massachusetts, a television news channel conducted an investigation questioning whether a large void space between the first and second floors and a flammable foam adhesive used to hold up the ceilings worked together to decrease the failure time of the ceiling, which accelerated fire spread when it prematurely failed. Soon after, the Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations voted to change the building code to require screwed or nailed ceilings. Representatives from the modular home industry have maintained that the glue is just as safe as screws and nails.

Under a Firefighter Safety Research Grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Underwriters Laboratory and the Chicago Fire Department are conducting research on the effect of both natural ventilation and fire-suppression ventilation tactics on structure fires.

The tests will use two full-size houses, one 1500 square feet and one 3200 square feet, with controlled fires set inside UL’s Large Scale Fire Test and Training Facility. The research was spurred by anecdotal evidence that newer construction techniques have affected how fire spreads in a structure and thus may require the fire department to use different ventilation tactics to effectively fight the fire. The research is expected to conclude this month and a report is projected for release late this year.

Finally, we close with news from IAAI.

The IAAI office has moved. The new address is:

2111 Baldwin Ave., Suite 203, Crofton, Maryland 21114

The telephone numbers will remain the same:

TELE: 410-451-FIRE or if you like the numbers more - 410-451-3473

FAX: 410-451-9049

Further information will be available on our website: www.firearson.com.

That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll see you again next month.

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2018

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2017

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2014

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2013

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2012

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2011

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October 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with Deborah Nietch, the new Executive Director of IAAI.
July 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with Tom Fee discussing details of investigating wildland fires.
June 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - June '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features a lot of exciting things that are happening at CFITrainer.Net
May 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 podcast discusses the upcoming IAAI Annual Training Conference and National Arson Awareness Week.
April 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - March '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - February '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features an update on fire grants and an interview with Steve Austin
January 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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.

2010

December 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - November '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - October '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - September '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features how to use the ATF’s Bomb Arson Tracking System, IAAI Foundation grants, electrical fires and indoor marijuana cultivation.
July 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - June '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - May '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - April '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - March '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - February '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - January '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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.

2009

December 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - November '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - October '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast is devoted to Fire Prevention Week.
September 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - August '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - July '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - June '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features live reports from the 2009 IAAI Annual Training Conference held in May.
May 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This podcast is dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week.
April 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - March '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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 - January '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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.

2008

December 2008 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '08 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. 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.
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