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.

December 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast

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Welcome to IAAI’s December 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This podcast marks the beginning of our third year providing monthly podcasts on important topics and news in fire investigation. If you are new to the podcast, take some time to browse our archives and listen to past episodes. There is a lot of great information available to you and perhaps some information that some of your friends or peers in the industry might enjoy as well.

This month, we focus on home candle fires. Every day, an average of 42 fires are started by the use of candles in the home, and the incidence of candle fires peaks during the holiday season. In our new segment, we’ll have information on a study of lightning punctures of gas piping as a fire cause. We’ll also look at the results of a study on respiratory diseases in the fire service.

We begin with a closer look at candle fires. Here are the numbers. According to the National Fire Protection Association, every year over 15,000 fires are caused by the use of candles in the home. That’s an average of 42 a day, or one every 30 minutes. Annually, an average of 166 civilians die, and 1,289 are injured in these candle fires. These candle fire are also responsible for $450 million in direct property damage. More than 1/3 of home candle fires start in the bedroom and nearly half of all deaths and injuries are in bedrooms. More than half of home candle fires occur when combustible materials are too close to the candle. Almost all home candle fires are accidental.

When evaluating a candle as a fire origin and cause hypothesis, there are several factors to consider.

No power to the structure at the time of the fire. Candles are often used as a substitute for electrical power during temporary outages, as well as when non-payment has triggered disconnection. An NFPA study found that 1 of every 4 candle fire deaths occurred in a home where the electrical power was shut off or temporarily cut off.

First material ignited. More than half of all candle fires start when something too close to the candle ignites. Candle fires can start with a variety of materials as the first material ignited. According to NFPA research, the most common first materials ignited are mattress or bedding, window coverings (curtains or blinds), cabinetry, and upholstered furniture. For candle fires that started in December, holiday decorations were the first materials ignited in 13% of the incidents. NFPA concluded that the use of seasonal decorations plus the increased use of candles during the holidays heightened the candle fire risk.

We also look at the location of the area of origin. More than one-third of home candle fires start in bedrooms. Another 15% start in living rooms, family rooms, or dens. 14% start in the bathroom.

Location of flame damage. In 3/4 of the candle fires from 2003 through 2007, the flame damage was confined to the room of origin.

Candle burning habits. Witnesses can provide information, which should be verified, into the candle burning practices in the home, including who burns candles, frequency, location, and maintenance. In 1/5 of the home candle fires from 2003-2007, the candle was unattended or abandoned. According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, someone was in the room with a candle in only 15% of the candle fires it studied, although 70% of the time someone was in the home. It is interesting to note that, in a special study of Massachusetts candle fires conducted in 1999, it was found that although teenagers were only 9% of the state population, they accounted for 21% of the candle fire population, making them more than twice as likely to have a candle fire.

We should also look at reports of or evidence of falling asleep. Falling asleep was a factor in 12% of home candle fires and in 36% of the associated fatalities. Witnesses may report falling asleep, or others falling asleep, or deceased victims may be found in a position or location that indicates they could have been asleep.

Time of year. Candle fires peak in December, especially during the holidays. The incidence of home candle fires is 1.6 times the monthly average for the rest of the year. The top five days are Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Halloween, and December 23.

Look at the time of day. Candle fires are most common on weekends and during the 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM time frame.

You should also look at product recalls. The CPSC has recalled more than 100 candles and candle-related products because of fire danger. These product problems included ignition of items embedded in or decorating the candle, excessively high flames, and candleholders that ignited or overheated. The number of recalls continues to climb. To find out more about candle recalls, subscribe to the CPSC’s recall alert email list at cpsc.gov.

The details for this story were obtained from the June 2010 NFPA report "Home Candle Fires" by Marty Ahrens. Please see this podcast’s page for a link to the full report. Also, if you want to know more about fire growth and candles, take a look at the CFITrainer module "The Candle Experiments."

Now, we turn to news items making headlines in the industry

Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing, or CSST, is a building product used to deliver fuel gas into a structure. There is continuing research into whether or not this product is more prone to puncture by lighting strikes than the traditional black pipe and, if so, how to best mitigate that risk. Over the last several years, fires have occurred that have been attributed to failure of CSST when struck by lightning. Settled litigation over this question, in part, requires specific installation measures, including grounding and bonding, designed to limit the potential for arcing that may cause perforation of the wall of the tubing and therefore gas leakage. The new editions of the National Fuel Gas Code and the National Electric Code are expected to resolve inconsistencies in these installation measures between CSST manufacturers and between the manufacturers and the Codes. Along with this effort, the National Fire Protection Research Foundation is sponsoring research to validate installation methods for CSST Piping to mitigate damage from lightning. The final report is due in early 2011. On this podcast’s page, you will find links to additional information about CSST and lighting, including a paper by Mark Goodson and Mark Hergenrether that includes information about investigative methods to use when a fire where CSST punctured by lighting is a possible cause.

In September, the United States Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters released Respiratory Diseases and the Fire Service, a report discussing the findings of a long-term study intended to examine and improve the occupational health of firefighters. The study assists in recognizing and quantifying the impact of respiratory exposure, and the development of mitigation strategies and programs for firefighters, their families, and fire departments. The report includes a tremendous amount of information on the lungs, respiratory diseases and how they develop and are diagnosed, what preventative and screening measures are available, and what the risks are for professionals in the fire service. The report is available free from IAFF. The link is on this podcast’s page.

Finally, we close with news about IAAI’s upcoming training classes

The next IAAI Hazmat, a 40-Hour Course, will be offered January 10-14, 2011 in Metairie, Louisiana and February 7-11, 2011 in San Diego, California. This course prepares the student to safely and effectively respond to Chemical Emergencies and meet the requirements of NFPA 472 Standard for Hazmat Awareness, Operations and Technician Level, as well as meet the OSHA HAZWOPER requirements outlined in 29 CFR 1910.120.

IAAI is offering its popular Effective Investigation and Testimony course on January 28, 2011 in West Palm Beach, FL. This class identifies and discusses the cutting edge issues that today’s fire investigators are facing in court, including protecting an investigation from spoliation, avoiding improper investigative methodology, responding to a Daubert challenge, and effectively presenting demonstrative evidence.

For complete class descriptions and registration information, go to firearson.com.

That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. Don’t forget to check out the links on this podcast’s page for more information on all of our stories. We’ll see you again next month.

Home Candle Fires

CSST and Lightning
"Investigating the Causal Link Between Lighting Strikes, CSST, and Fire" by Mark Goodson, PE and Mark Hergenrether, MSME.

"Lightning Induced CSST Fires" by Mark Goodson, PE and Mark Hergenrether, MSME.

"Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing for Fuel Gas Distribution in Buldings and Concerns over Lightning Strikes" by the National Association of Home Builders Research Center.

National Fire Protection Research Foundation RFP

USFA and IAFF Release Study on Fire Service Respiratory Diseases

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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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