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 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
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.