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.
Welcome to this edition of the IAAI’s CFITrainer.Net podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us to talk about the National Fire Academy and Arson Awareness Week. We’re pleased to welcome Tonya Hoover, the Superintendent of the National Fire Academy. Superintendent Hoover has been on the job with NFA for just about a year, and she came to the position with more than 20 years of experience in local and state government, most recently as the California State Fire Marshal. She has developed and implemented fire protection, fire prevention, fire training, and community risk reduction programs in many capacities, including with the fire marshal’s office, as a fire marshal and battalion chief at a local fire department, and as a deputy campus fire marshal at the University of California at Berkeley. She’s a member of the Board of Directors for the National Fire Protection Association and the International Fire Service Training Association and a past committee member with the International Code Council. She’s here today to talk all things NFA, including Arson Awareness Week, which is coming up in May. Superintendent Hoover, welcome to the CFITrainer.Net podcast.
TONYA HOOVER: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.
ROD AMMON: Well, we’re very grateful for your time. So some of the audience may not be familiar with your role of the NFA superintendent. Can you tell us a bit about your job?
TONYA HOOVER: Sure. Well, the superintendent of the National Fire Academy was established under the Fire Protection and Control Act of 1974 and, within that act, it established the National Fire Academy as well as the role of the superintendent. And the superintendent heads the NFA and has all of those exercising powers and authorities to do things such as develop and revise curricula, provide standards for admission and performance. But basically, it has the responsibility for enhancing the professional development of fire service personnel and other persons that are engaged in fire prevention and control activities.
ROD AMMON: I love to hear that. We did a survey back, oh, some time ago on one of the networks about what a firefighter – how do firefighters want to be defined? Maybe that’s not the word. How do they want to be thought of? And they said professional was the number-one answer, which I thought was interesting.
TONYA HOOVER: There you go.
ROD AMMON: So tell me about your priorities for your tenure.
TONYA HOOVER: Well, priorities for the National Fire Academy should always be centered on our students and those that come to partake in the activities here at the National Emergency Training Center. So most of my focus is on making sure that our curriculum and our delivery system is the best for folks that come to our campus. We want to make sure that we are current and relevant and, as I say to folks when I visit the classrooms, if we are – we need to be current in order to be relevant. If we’re not relevant, then somebody is going to ask the question, why are you there? And I never want to be on the other side of that conversation. Again, this is about our students. It’s not about our students just today, tomorrow, next week. It’s for our future students as well. So we want to make sure that what we are teaching here, what we’re providing in professional development here addresses the issue for emergency responders for the future as well as today.
ROD AMMON: Makes a lot of sense. From the people I know that work over near you, there’s a great gang of folks and a nice place to go when you want one.
TONYA HOOVER: It sure is.
ROD AMMON: So you’ve been working in this fire service training and education world for a long time, specifically in fire prevention for many years. Where do you think we’ve made progress?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, I believe we’ve made progress in a number of areas, and I’ll start with our response capabilities. If you look at where we’ve gone, where we are from where we’ve been, and our ability to cross over boundaries to serve the public, we’ve expanded our response capabilities. We are operating on more of a level platform. In other words, folks have adopted using ICS, using the NIMS system. We’ve made important progress in providing for a well-trained and ready workforce. Raising the level of health and safety is important to our workforce.
We’ve also raised the level of awareness in simple fire prevention methods such as smoke alarms, early education, all of the efforts and work that has gone into things like learn not to burn for our high-risk groups such as small children and then the work that we’ve done with our older folks in remembering when, things of that nature. With that said, though, we have made progress, that doesn’t mean that we should just sit on our laurels. When we see decreases in activity, people may have a tendency to step back and say, we don’t need that anymore, and that’s not the case. The reason why we see decreases in activity is because we’re strong in areas, and we’re putting it on the forefront and in people’s minds. The minute we back away, it is no longer on people’s minds, and we have a tendency to fall back into old habits.
So I think we still have work to be done in our prevention standpoint, such as in our codes and regulations. We need to be able to strengthen our code standards, as it not just relates to our public but the importance of those in our workforce, in our fire service workforce. A friend of mine used to say the place where our firefighters work is not in the station. It’s out there in the public. It’s out in the buildings. And so having an understanding on the codes and standards that protect not only our communities but our workforce is important, and we need to be able to communicate that.
We also need to be able to communicate that current codes and standards provide strength in our communities, resilience in our communities, and that’s all aspects of hazards whether it be flood, earthquake, or fire, that current codes and standards provide protection. And I mentioned health and safety, that we’ve raised that level of awareness, but we still have a lot to do in health and safety awareness with our firefighting workforce. We need to make sure that folks change some of those bad habits, protect themselves against disease, and function in a safe manner so that everybody has the opportunity to go home at night.
ROD AMMON: So when you think about our audience, which is mostly folks in the fire investigation world, any message for them? I know you have classes over there. I know people that are trainers or instructors, and there seems to be a lot of work going on.
TONYA HOOVER: Well, in the fire investigation world, again, training, education is very critical. The world has changed. Yes, I realize that fire is still hot, and it’s still releases smoke, but the tactics that people use to start fire, the environment in which fires are started in are different. Products are different that ignite, so back on that theme of health and safety, every fire investigator needs to take their health and safety into account as well. As far as that education and training piece, there may come a time when an investigator is challenged on decisions that they make, and so that training and education is very important. So whether it be an intentional fire and they are finding themselves in a position where they are in a courtroom or before a group of attorneys or having to defend a position they took, they need to understand the standards. They need to understand all of those aspects of putting a good fire investigation case together. So the work that we do here at the National Fire Academy, as it relates to fire investigation, is not just on the crime of arson but on increasing a person’s capability to do a thorough job in fire investigation.
ROD AMMON: So let’s talk a little bit about Arson Awareness Week. The topic of this year is abandoned buildings. And why did the USFA choose this topic?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, some folks may not remember this, but the last time arson in vacant and abandoned buildings was a theme for Arson Awareness Week was 17 years ago in 2001. We worked with the International Association of Arson Investigators on an abandoned building mitigation project, and if you look at what has gone on these past few years as it relates to economy and the downturn of the economy, again, buildings were in positions of being abandoned, people using those buildings for something other than their original intent. And so working with partners such as Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, NFPA, and the International Association of Arson Investigators, the USFA joined with them at bringing back the reduction arson at vacant and abandoned buildings as its theme.
ROD AMMON: So what are the goals of this abandoned buildings effort?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, the goal of it is to raise a level of awareness. There are – I’m looking at data right now. When we look at – from 2013 to 2015, there was an estimate of almost 23,000 vacant residential building fires within the United States, which caused an estimate of 75 deaths, 200 injuries, and $785 million in property loss; 34% intentional actions were the leading cause of vacant residential building fires. So these are a hazard to our community. They’re a hazard to our workforce. They’re a hazard to a community’s economy, and so we want folks to be aware of that and take appropriate actions.
ROD AMMON: What do you think the greatest challenge is when it comes to a city who has inspectors, has fire investigators? Some of them are the same people I guess in some case. What’s the greatest challenge for them when they’re going out there, trying to deal with the abandoned buildings in their town?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, part of the challenge of dealing with an abandoned building is you can only secure a building so much. You can board it up. You can chain it up. You can tape it up. But what we find is people a way to get inside of that building and use the building, and they use the building in all sorts of ways. We can’t be there 24/7 to monitor those buildings. It’s very difficult for a community to monitor their vacant buildings consistently. So the challenge is how do you secure the building so that folks don’t find their way in? And once they’re in, how do you ensure that something doesn’t go inside that building that could jeopardize life and property?
ROD AMMON: You know, it – I’ll ask the question, and you may not be able to answer it, but one of the things that drives me crazy when I drive around the country is I go in and I see these places, and I know how much effort on the fire service and others, it’s a business trying to secure these buildings. Why is it so difficult to get owners to take responsibility?
TONYA HOOVER: I wish I knew the answer to that question. I would venture to guess it depends upon the owner. It depends upon the owner’s mindset, depends on the economic situation of the community, and I would not even want to guess why someone would not want to secure their building appropriately so that somebody doesn’t get hurt. I mean if you think about between 2011 and ’15, there was an estimate of 3300 firefighters per year injured in vacant building fires; 13% of those firefighters injuries at structure fires occurred in or at a vacant building, so why an owner would not want to take the appropriate measures or to continue to take appropriate measures to secure that abandoned building or that vacant building, I can’t answer that one.
ROD AMMON: So what would you like everyone listening to this podcast to do during Arson Awareness Week this year? How can they be part of an effort?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, I think one of the first places to go – there’s a great tool kit that’s available, and that tool kit was a project done with the International Association of Arson Investigators, and we can give you the website for that tool kit: www.interfire.org. There is a feature on vacant buildings. That’s a great place to start. It provides information about nuisance fires, abandoned vacant building fires. Also, during this week, take the time to learn your community. Take the time to find vacant buildings. Have situational awareness as it relates to those abandoned buildings, vacant buildings, just in case our emergency responders should have a call to those vacant buildings.
ROD AMMON: It always worries me, and I know it does all of the leadership out there in the fire service when these buildings start to burn, and you worry so much that people are going into a building where there may be no one inside to save, and that always becomes a difficult call.
TONYA HOOVER: You know, I think there’s a – the late Chief Alan Brunacini had a mantra where he mentioned risk a lot to save a lot; risk a little to save a little; risk nothing to save nothing. I think we collectively – that awareness of our vacant buildings, what they may be used for, what they might not be used for, what is the risk? Doing a simple risk evaluation to determine what type of firefighting force we use should there be a fire, that’s important, and that’s part of this awareness.
ROD AMMON: It’s a great thing to remember. By the way, just the – I’m so glad you still go over to the Interfire site. A lot of people do, thousands every month, and I think that toolbox has been updated. We were somewhat involved in that, and the IAAI has that also up at firearson.com in the resources section, and we have a link to that at the bottom of the – on the podcast page. And I think that gives you real tactics that you can take, and one of them that is very important is the proper markings of these buildings so that you can know they’re secure and know that there isn’t anybody in them or at least hope that the latest markings tell you the right information.
TONYA HOOVER: Absolutely. When we mark buildings, we want to be sure that they stay marked. You mentioned earlier sometimes your fire inspectors are also your fire investigators. Sometimes they’re different, but this is one of those areas. There are so many other areas within the fire service where every aspect of the fire services working together, your inspectors working with your operations, working with your investigators to get a complete view of a community, complete view of that building.
ROD AMMON: So it sounds like people have some things to do. Some of our listeners can get over there, get some of those tools that are in the toolbox, share them, and have a discussion with the leadership at their fire department during that week. What’s the – what are the actual dates for Fire Arson Awareness Week this year?
TONYA HOOVER: Well, Arson Awareness Week for 2018 is May 6th through the 12th.
ROD AMMON: Okay.
TONYA HOOVER: And information will be on the USFA website available in two weeks at usfa.fema.gov/aaw.
ROD AMMON: Okay. What else can you do to give us a preview of what’s coming up this year at the NFA?
TONYA HOOVER: There are so many cool things going on at the NFA. We have increased our social media presence. We’re doing more enticing, I like to say, showing folks that may not normally have come to the USA what we have to offer here through our live streaming of some of our class work. We have extended – as we speak to fire investigation, we’ve extended our burn area, our burn lot where we’re able to do live burns, send our investigators in, and really get an idea of what a flashover room looks like, and then start that dig-through of the investigation. There is so much going on in our technical aspects, in our command and control, our fire prevention, our leadership. We are in the process of, once again, going through updates of so many pieces of our curriculum that, if you haven’t been here lately, you’re going to want to get here. It’s a very exciting time for us.
ROD AMMON: That sounds great, and I appreciate very much your time. Everybody does. So, with your plate pretty full, we’ll let you go unless there’s something else you wanted to bring up.
TONYA HOOVER: I just want to add that April 15th, important date. It’s an important date because that’s when the application period opens up for the National Fire Academy, so we want to make sure that folks get online and get their applications in.
ROD AMMON: Okay, so let’s say that again. Anybody who wants to get down to the NFA and be part of, I guess, the USFA’s training that’s going on at the NFA, they have to get to your website by April 15th.
TONYA HOOVER: April 15th opens the application period; so between April 15th and June 15th, get your applications in.
ROD AMMON: Thanks very much for your time.
TONYA HOOVER: Thank you and, everybody, be safe.
ROD AMMON: We appreciate your service.
TONYA HOOVER: Thank you.
ROD AMMON: Be well. As we mentioned in the interview, the IAAI has a Vacant Building Toolbox on their website at www.firearson.com. Go to the resources, and you can access the toolbox information and slides that may be helpful for you and your city. The direct link to the site is on this podcast page. If you are listening from our onsite player, you could just navigate to the resources section of the site and get the information.
It’s your last chance to register for the IAAI 2018 ITC in Frisco Texas. It’s only about a month away. You’ll find all the information on the class schedules, hotel, and registration links at iaaiitc.com. Don’t miss this chance to get dozens of hours of training in one location.
That concludes this podcast. Stay safe. Please check out usfa.fema.gov for more information on Arson Awareness Week. They’re also having a webinar on Wednesday the 18th at 2 p.m.
If you go to the USFA webpage, you can get information about that webinar on abandoned buildings. We’ll see you next time on CFITrainer.Net. For the IAAI and CFITrainer.Net, I’m Rod Ammon.
National Fire Academy
Arson Awareness Week
IAAI 2018 International Training Conference
Abandoned Building Toolbox from the IAAI on firearson.com
This program provides a primer on accreditation, certification, and certificates for fire investigation training.
A fire occurred on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, in The Station nightclub at 211 Cowesett Avenue, West Warwick, Rhode Island.
Arc Mapping, or Arc Fault Circuit Analysis, uses the electrical system to help reconstruct a scene, providing investigators with a means of determining the area of a fire’s origin.
This module introduces basic electrical concepts, including: terminology, atomic theory and electricity, Ohm’s Law, Joule’s Law, AC and DC power.
A fire occurred on the evening of June 18, 2007, in the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, SC that resulted in the deaths of nine fire fighters.
This module looks at the many ways fire investigators enter and grow in the profession through academia, the fire service, law enforcement, insurance, and engineering.
This module will present a description of the IAAI organization.
This module takes a closer look at four of the most commonly-reported accidental fire causes according to "NFPA Fact Sheet.
This program brings three highly experienced fire investigators and an attorney with experience as a prosecutor and civil litigator together for a round table discussion.
The program discusses the basics of digital photography for fire investigators as well as software and editing procedures for digital images intended as evidence.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in civil proceedings such as fire loss claims and product defect lawsuits.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in criminal proceedings.
This module covers the foundation of DNA evidence: defining, recognizing, collecting, and testing.
This program provides a practical overview of how to perform the baseline documentation tasks that occur at every scene.
This module will discuss the techniques and strategies for conducting a proper science-based fire scene investigation and effectively presenting an investigator’s findings in court as an expert witness.
This module presents critical electrical safety practices that every fire investigator should implement at every scene, every time.
This self-paced program examines the fire investigator's ethical duties beyond the fire scene.
As social media has emerged as a powerful force in interpersonal communications, fire investigators are being confronted with new questions...
Should you work for a private lab as a consultant if you are on an Arson Task Force? How about accepting discounts from the local hardware store as a “thanks” for a job well done on a fire they had last year?
This module takes investigators into the forensic laboratory and shows them what happens to the different types of fire scene evidence that are typically submitted for testing.
This module teaches the foundational knowledge of explosion dynamics, which is a necessary precursor to investigating an explosion scene.
This module addresses the foundations of fire chemistry and places it within the context of fire scene investigations.
The program is designed to introduce a new Palm/Pocket PC application called CFI Calculator to users and provide examples of how it can be used by fire investigators in the field.
This module examines these concepts to help all professionals tasked with determining fire origin and cause better understand fire flow dynamics so they can apply that knowledge to both to fire investigation and to fire attack.
This module provides a road map for fire officers to integrate and navigate their fire investigation duty with all their other responsibilities and describes where to obtain specific training in fire investigation.
The evaluation of hazards and the assessment of the relative risks associated with the investigation of fires and explosions are critical factors in the management of any investigation.
This module will describe the most commonly encountered fire protection systems.
This module presents best practices in preparing for and conducting the informational interview with witnesses in the fire investigation case.
This module provides instruction on the fundamentals of residential building construction with an eye toward how building construction affects fire development.
This module teaches first responders, including fire, police and EMS, how to make critical observations.
This program discusses how to access insurance information, understand insurance documents, ask key questions of witnesses, and apply the information learned.
This module offers a basic introduction about how some selected major appliances operate.
This program introduces the fire investigator to the issues related to the collection, handling and use of evidence related to a fire investigation.
This program takes you inside the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) archives of some of the most interesting and instructive test burns and fire model simulations they have ever conducted.
The program provides foundational background on the scope of the youth-set fire problem, the importance of rigorous fire investigation in addressing this problem, and the role of key agencies in the response to a youth-set fire.
This module provides a thorough understanding of the ways an investigation changes when a fire-related death occurs.
This self-paced program will help you understand what to expect at a fire where an LODD has occurred, what your role is, how to interact with others, and how to handle special circumstances at the scene.
This program will introduce the fire investigator to the basic methodologies use to investigate vehicle fires.
This module presents the role natural gas can play in fire ignition, fuel load, and spread; the elements of investigating a fire in a residence where natural gas is present; and the potential role the gas utility or the municipality can play an investigation.
This self-paced program covers fundamental legal aspects of investigating youth-set fires, including the juvenile justice system, legalities of interviews and interrogations, arson statutes, search and seizure, and confidentiality.
This program discusses the latest developments in expert testimony under the Daubert standard, including the MagneTek case recently decided in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
This module focuses on how to manage investigations that have “complicating” factors.
This module uses the Motive, Means, and Opportunity case study to demonstrate how responsibility is determined in an arson case.
This program covers the general anatomy of a motor vehicle and a description of typical components of the engine, electrical, ignition, and fuel systems.
This self-paced program is the second part of a two-part basic introduction to motor vehicle systems. This program describes the function and major components of the transmission, exhaust, brake, and accessory systems.
This module educates the investigator about NFPA 1033’s importance, its requirements, and how those requirements impact the fire investigator’s professional development.
This module reviews the major changes included in the documents including the use of color photos in NFPA 921 and additional material that supports the expanded required knowledge list in NFPA 1033 Section 1.3.7.
The program illustrates for the fire investigator, how non-traditional fire scene evidence can be helpful during an investigation.
This module introduces the postflashover topic, describes ventilation-controlled fire flow, illustrates how the damage left by a postflashover can be significantly different than if that fire was extinguished preflashover.
This module lays the groundwork for understanding marine fires by covering four basic concepts that the investigator must understand before investigating a marine fire.
In this module, you will learn more about how cancer develops, what occupational exposure risks to carcinogens exist at fire scenes, and how to better protect yourself against those exposures.
The use of the process of elimination in the determination of a fire cause is a topic that has generated significant discussion and controversy in the fire investigation profession.
This module teaches the basics of the electrical power generation, distribution, and transmission system.
This module presents the basics of natural gas and its uses and system components in a residence.
This module explains the principles of search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, as contained in the amendment and according to subsequent case law, and applies them to typical fire scene scenarios.
One of the legal proceedings that may require the fire investigator to testify is a deposition. Depositions are often related to civil proceedings, but more and more jurisdictions are using them in criminal cases.
Deposing attorneys employ a variety of tactics to learn about the expert witness giving testimony, to try to unsettle that witness to see how he/she handles such pressure, and to probe for weaknesses to exploit.
This module provides introductory information on the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard – 29 CFR 1910.120.
The program examines the importance of assessing the impact of ventilation on a fire.
This module demonstrates the investigative potential of information stored on electronic devices.
This module explains the relationship between NFPA 1033 and NFPA 921
The basics of the scientific method are deceptively simple: observe, hypothesize, test, and conclude.
This module addresses the foundations of thermometry, including the definition of temperature, the scales used to measure temperature and much more.
This program presents the results of flame experiments conducted with a candle.
This self-paced program explains to non-investigators the role of the fire investigator, what the fire investigator does, how the fire investigator is trained, what qualifications the fire investigator must meet.
This module will untangle the meanings of "undetermined," straighten out how to use the term correctly, talk about how not to use it, and describe how to properly report fires where "undetermined" is the cause or classification.
This module will advise fire investigators on how to approach the fact-finding procedures necessary and validate a hypothesis.
This module provides an overview on how structures can become vacant and eventually abandoned.
This self-paced program provides a basic framework for structuring the management of fire cases and fire investigators.
This module illustrates how wildland fires spread, explains how to interpret burn patterns unique to these types of fires.
This module presents the key elements of the initial origin and cause report and methods of clearly presenting findings in a professional manner.