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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.

July 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast

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Transcript

Welcome to IAAI’s CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This podcast features wildland fires and news stories on safe fire cigarettes and research into the fire risk of lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Let’s get started.

So in June and July, the Wallow Fire became the largest wildland fire in Arizona history. The Wallow Fire burned for two months and consumed 538,049 acres at an estimated cost of $109 million. This type of spectacular destructive fire makes news headlines, but every year there are approximately 70,000-80,000 wildland fires in the United States. Most of these fires are small and many are investigated by a local fire investigator. In most instances, the fire investigator is accustomed to seeing structure fires, which behave differently and typically have different causes than wildland fires. With us today to shed some light on the details of investigating wildland fires is a wildland fire expert and a past president of the IAAI, Tom Fee. Tom, welcome to the podcast.

TOM FEE: Thanks for having me.

Q: To start off, why is it important that wildland fires be investigated?

TOM FEE: Well, it’s important that all fires be investigated in order to save lives and protect property. It’s also important that the cause of every fire be identified so that fires can be prevented. If we don’t know what caused a fire, we won’t know how to prevent it in the future. There’s another issue here too, and that’s the intentionally caused fire by the arsonist. It’s important that all arson fires be investigated to their full extent and the perpetrators held responsible for their crimes.

Q: So how do wildland fires differ from structure fires?

TOM FEE: Well, even though the basic sciences apply in both wildfires and structure fire investigation, some of the basic principles of fire science and fire dynamics differ in a wildfire. Fire development and spread is influenced by different factors. The main factor are the wildland fuels - the weather, the typography and then, of course, the unconfined burning that occurs in wildfires. There is also the fire weather to be considered. That’s the winds which are created by the fire during the fire. Many wildfire fire patterns are unique to the fuel load and the surroundings. The investigator must be proficient in identifying, recognizing and interpreting each of those patterns in order to competently establish fire origin and cause in any wildland fire situation.

Q: So what are some common causes of wildland fires?

TOM FEE: Well, some of the most common causes of wildfires are lightning, campfires, discarded smoking materials, spontaneous combustion, debris burning, incendiary or arson fires, fires caused by equipment use, fires caused by railroad equipment, adults or children playing with fire, the misuse of fire, campfires and etc., fireworks, electricity, electrical lines, gas drilling, spontaneous heating, sunlight refraction or reflection. The use of firearms and the list goes on.

Q: I think for a lot of investigators they’re probably going, wow, how was that investigated? How do you investigate a wildland fire?

TOM FEE: Well, the first objective of wildfire investigation would be to identify the area of origin. That initial area of origin or investigation can be determined from the first arriving firefighters and/or eyewitnesses. The firefighters and witnesses can usually verify the location and the size of the fire during its early involvement. Airborne personnel can make the same types of observations and sometimes have a valuable different perspective. Satellite or imaging tools can sometimes be helpful. These accounts are going to assist the investigator in narrowing down the search area. Sometimes the investigator can identify a classic V or U shaped pattern and that’s usually commonly found close to the heel or the rare of the fire and becomes an indicator of fire travel direction as well as the area of origin.

Then once the investigator is established that general area of origin, he or she should do a scene assessment. Walk the perimeter of the specific origin at least twice. Once clockwise, once counterclockwise, and you do that before entering into this area of origin. The investigator will then begin to look at the microscale fire indicators and the reading of those indicators will usually bring the investigator down to an even smaller area, sometimes 20 x 20 feet, if you’re lucky even down to 5 x 5 feet. Then contained within that specific origin area will be the precise location where the ignition source came into contact where the material first ignited and sustained combustion occurred.

Physical evidence of the actual ignition source is likely to be located at or within close proximity to that point of origin. Oftentimes, that’s located through the process of gritting or conducting lane searches within that area of fire origin. That kind of sums up how the overall process brings you right down to your final opinion as to what caused this fire.

Q: What have you seen as far as trends and changes and sort of the state of the state? What’s going on out west?

TOM FEE: Well, I don’t know that it’s just out west. I think it’s all over the United States, but there are more and more resources becoming available because of the large number of wildfires that have occurred over the past ten years. Local fire investigators are using mutual aid from surrounding departments, they’re calling in their buddies to help in these investigations. They’re also calling upon the county agencies within their states to assist them. They’re using the state forestry departments within their states, and oftentimes even calling upon the U.S. Forest Service for assistance. In addition to that, the personnel and scientific laboratories of ATF and FBI assist when requested, and in some cases, recently I noted in Texas even FEMA is giving assistance with their national response team.

Q: So if I’m a young person going into the fire investigation field, a lot of opportunity to get involved in wildfires, is it something where I could focus?

TOM FEE: I believe so. There’s not a lot of people out there that specialize in wildland fire investigation, so I think there is an opening there for people who are interested, especially if they’ve had some background in fighting wildfires because you learn an awful lot about - of the fire dynamics by being on a suppression crew and being out there on the front line and actually being able to see what the fire does, what effects the typography have and the weather has and the wind has, very important.

Q: Thanks, Tom, for being with us today.

TOM FEE: You’re welcome, thank you.

For investigators who are interested in further training on this topic, CFITrainer.Net offers a full module on the investigation of Wildland Fires.

Now, let’s turn our attention to fire-related items in the news.

NFPA 1033, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigators, establishes clear and concise job performance requirements for fire investigators and describes the specific knowledge and skills needed to meet these requirements. These job performance requirements are applicable to both the public and private sector fire investigators. NFPA 1033 has entered the revision cycle and is now open for proposals to revise any portion of the document. Any interested party may submit a proposal, and fire investigators are encouraged to participate in revising the document that sets the qualification standard for their profession. Proposals will be accepted until November 25, 2011. Each proposal will be individually and specifically addressed by the committee during committee meetings to be held in early 2012. The committee’s actions will then be published in the Report on Proposals, which is scheduled to be issued in the Spring of 2012. This podcast page includes links to information about the code development process, the NFPA Technical Committee Document Proposal Form that must be used to submit a proposal for the revision, and the calendar for the full revision cycle that culminates in the publication of the next NFPA 1033 edition in 2014.

As of July 2011, all 50 states have passed laws requiring that cigarettes to be self-extinguishing. Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts has compiled a Fire-Safe Cigarette Research Guide based on the archive of Massachusetts Congressman Joe Moakley, who is a longtime advocate of mandating the production of self-extinguishing cigarettes. The Fire-Safe Cigarette Research Guide includes the legislative history of the self-extinguishing cigarette issue, oral histories, research studies, journal articles, and website links.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has begun an $8.75 million study of whether lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles pose a potential fire hazard when they are being charged and/or when the vehicle is in an accident. Although no fires linked to the batteries have occurred in these situations, lithium ion batteries in other devices have been recalled for fire risk. Currently, most gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles use nickel metal hydride batteries. However, within 10 years, this will change significantly; it is projected that 70% of gasoline hybrids and all plug-in vehicles will use lithium ion batteries by the end of the next decade. The research will continue through 2014.

So this month, in IAAI news, if you’re interested in becoming an instructor in the fire investigation field or looking to strengthen your instructor resume, in early September 2011, the International Association of Arson investigators will be launching its new IAAI-Certified Instructor Program. This program and its requirements are based on the NFPA 1041, Standard for Fire Service Instructor Professional Qualifications, 2007 edition. For information regarding the IAAI Certified Instructor program, including specific program requirements and application protocols, go to the IAAI website (www.firearson.com) under the Professional Credentialing tab.

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

Wildland Fire Investigation Statistics

CFITrainer.Net Module: Wildland Fires Investigation

NFPA Codes and Standards Development Process

NFPA Document Proposal Form

NFPA 1033 Revision Cycle Full Calendar (NFPA 1033 is on the Annual 2013 revision cycle; the final revised document will be published in 2014)

Fire-Safe Cigarette Research Guide

Announcement of NHTSA Lithium-Ion Battery Research

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2018

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2017

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2016

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2015

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2014

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2013

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2012

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2011

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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.
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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.
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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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