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.
ROD AMMON: Welcome to this edition of the IAAI’s CFITrainer.net podcast. Today, in December, we’re going to have sort of a holiday treat. We’re going to do a profile or a spotlight on somebody that we’ve known for a long time who’s been, shall we say, the godfather of fire as far as I’m concerned. For me he has been anyway. Since around 1995, I’ve been working in the fire service or with the fire service and fire investigation people, and one name always came up as someone who knew a whole lot about fire dynamics and the phenomena of fire, and that is Dr. Quintiere. Dr. Quintiere is joining us today on the phone for a quick interview about what he’s done in the fire service, his contributions, and what he sees important as we move forward. So Dr. Quintiere, you’re one of the smart guys. You’ve taught and mentored a lot of people. I appreciate very much you being on the phone with us today. How are you?
DR. QUINTIERE: I’m the same, but I don’t know how smart I am, but I’ll try.
ROD AMMON: Well, I wanted you to know I have a candle lit for our interview because that was I think one of…
DR. QUINTIERE: Okay, very good, yes, maybe light two.
ROD AMMON: I think it’s – well, it’s got three wicks. It’s one of those very complex candles.
DR. QUINTIERE: Okay.
ROD AMMON: So I was looking back at some of the things you’ve done, and you’ve been well published with “Principles of Fire Behavior”, “Enclosure Fire Dynamics”, “Fundamentals of Fire Phenomena”, and you also helped us with the production of an understanding of fire through the candle experiments, which I think were originally done by Michael Faraday.
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, he was a good guy, and I was really proud and happy to do that with you guys. That’s still a fond memory.
ROD AMMON: It was fond for us, too, and I’m going to tell you something that I’m not sure you know, and that’s that over 13,000 people have viewed that program since we put it up.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, it’s wonderful. Faraday was a genius. He was one of the greatest scientists that lived in modern times, relatively modern times, and it goes back to him, but I’ll tell you who turned me on to that. That was Rick Miller from the ATF who was fascinated with Faraday’s book on the candle and just continued to do experiments in his spare time, so Rick Miller really turned me on, and he is one of the ringleaders of getting the ATF into science. He kind of disappeared from the scene, but he was a great guy.
ROD AMMON: Well, that’s a great thing, and getting all of us in fire investigation, and I allow myself to be in that just because I get to work around you, has been a huge contribution, and I think it was really the first way that I got involved with you when we were working in interFIRE, so I think about interFIRE, and then I think about the candle experiments, and look at you – boom. Now, you’re the professor emeritus with the University of Maryland. So what have you been up to?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, I play with the Mummers. We have a big gig on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, so look for me with the Durning String Band.
ROD AMMON: You said Durning?
DR. QUINTIERE: Durning, like turning with a D.
ROD AMMON: Okay.
DR. QUINTIERE: And then I have my finger in some research. I’ve done some research for the FAA. That’s why I had this place in Margate to kind of relax down here in the off-season, and then I do some work for the FAA, done work on batteries. That was an experience, lithium ion batteries, and then with my colleague, Peter Sunderland at the University, we have a contract with NASA to study how things burn in microgravity, so our experiment is slated to go on to the space station in a few years, and we’re going to be really proud to see that fly up there.
ROD AMMON: Wow, that’s pretty interesting.
DR. QUINTIERE: And hope that it tells us something that we don’t know.
ROD AMMON: So are the folks that you work with in the FAA – do they still have the office over in Atlantic City?
DR. QUINTIERE: Oh yeah, there’s – the FAA has a big technical center there where they do most of the work that supports their regulations, and there’s a really great fire program there that’s concentrated on aircraft fire safety. They’ve probably done the most work on lithium ion batteries, so if any investigators are interested in that group, the Fire Safety Branch has a website, and almost all of the reports are now electronic.
ROD AMMON: Nice.
DR. QUINTIERE: You can download them for free.
ROD AMMON: I was surprised to find out they were there. I guess they had a place there and in Denver when we were working with them years back.
DR. QUINTIERE: They’ve been there for ages, going back to World War 2. It used to be called NAVFAC because it was a navy facility, and I guess they were intermingled with them, but they’ve been there a long time. It’s a great laboratory, and the work that they do in fire safety is one of the best in the world.
ROD AMMON: Well, the folks that I worked with down there are awesome. We were doing some things on screeners and trying to help them teach in a virtual way how to do better screening of passengers as they came in and they had amazing…
DR. QUINTIERE: The air marshals even have a facility on their site now.
ROD AMMON: I believe it. Well, I hope someday we’ll get to work down there again.
DR. QUINTIERE: I think some of your guys might be interested in looking at fire safety and aircraft. I don’t know how many get that opportunity, but it is unique.
ROD AMMON: Okay, it’s – for us it was dealing with trying to get people to stop bringing the wrong things on a plane, and it seems like, as you’re working on lithium ion batteries, and a couple of the phones that I know have been mentioned recently, that’s getting to be an issue as well.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, even after 9/11, they still were bringing things on planes that they hadn’t really sorted out yet. It took a few years after 9/11 before they stopped bringing flammable liquids on an airplane, so there’s many issues with aircraft. You have new aircraft now made out of a composite, which is a plastic with carbon, and that’s flammable instead of aluminum that just melts. You have Malaysia Air that disappeared. It had 6,000 pounds of lithium ion batteries in its cargo bay.
ROD AMMON: Whoa, I didn’t know that.
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, there’s stuff on the Internet about that, but we still don’t know what caused that plane to come down.
ROD AMMON: Well, and I saw the last thing that they were saying was everywhere they were searching, they didn’t think it was there, so it will be interesting to see.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, we’ll see what happens.
ROD AMMON: You know, I know you have a mechanical engineering degree, and I also read that you were the chief of NIST’s Fire Science and Engineering, but I’m trying to think about – wanted to know what drove into fire, in fire science.
DR. QUINTIERE: I lost my job.
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, you know I got my PhD from New York University. Then I was really happy to get a job in – outside of New Brunswick in New Jersey working for American Standard. They had a research lab there, and a couple of other people in the fire field went through that lab before me. It was just a coincidence, so I got a job there doing heat transfer work, and corporate business and research wasn’t that profitable, so a lot of corporations were cutting back the research labs that – I was one of the first to go, so looked around for a job and wound up at the National Bureau of Standards, working in their expanding fire program.
ROD AMMON: Nice, and then ended up being the chief of the fire science…
DR. QUINTIERE: No, I was chief of one division. There was a center for fire research there at one time that John Lyons put together. That was a really great experience working in that environment because that group numbered as high as 120 people. It really was pioneering some of the work in fire because no one had ever worked in it before in the US to any large extent, and it was a great experience. So then I moved up and it became one of the two division chiefs, but management was fine, but I wanted to keep my finger in the technical side of things.
ROD AMMON: Seems like you’ve always done that. I’m wondering; so at the beginning, what were some of the first experiments, or can you give an example of one of the first things you worked on?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, we were all learning at that time. I’ll tell you the truth, Rod, I didn’t know how the flame and a match worked, so even though I had a PhD in the field of heat transfer, fire is a much more complex field because not only do you have heat transfer mixed up with fluid mechanics, you have chemistry and turbulence and soot, and it’s a very complex field, so it’s hard to get your arms around it at first, but one of the first things I worked on was they started to look at the flammability of carpets because floor coverings up to about the ‘70s were mainly vinyl floors and things like that, and linoleum. And then they switched over to carpet, and they had some big fires, I think one at a nursing home in Pennsylvania, and so attention was focused on should there be a fire test for floor covering materials. Up to that point, floor coverings were kind of exempt from any fire testing. So I got to work in that territory. There was a really big effort going on, and I was working around the fringes and doing some analysis and helped even with the final test method that they put together, so that’s how I got my feet planted. It was very practical work, but there was analysis that had to be done, and it was a learning experience.
ROD AMMON: It’s funny. You know you say you didn’t know how a match worked. We just got done doing a module on thermometry, and Dan Madrzykowski, for the first time, explained to me a couple of things so that I could understand them about heat transfers and the different types of heat, and it was – it’s always so interesting to learn. So as a researcher, what did you find most rewarding in the fire investigation field?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, what happened when I first moved into the field, there were a couple of scientists with simultaneous efforts. You might remember there was a commission put together by Nixon to look at fire safety and firefighting issues.
ROD AMMON: I didn’t know that.
DR. QUINTIERE: America Burning.
ROD AMMON: Okay, yes, that I remember.
DR. QUINTIERE: So America Burning spawned some activity, and that triggered a bigger effort at what was then the National Bureau of Standards, which is now the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST. There was a parallel program in basic research at the National Science Foundation, and so a lot of academics were involved in that program, and they had a really good guy there at the NSF fostering this new work in fire, so it was very fundamental at the time. Ralph Long was the guy involved, and the most rewarding experience for me was to get involved at the threshold of this developing scientific area, and then see what was going on in the fundamental aspect of this field through NSF and then later at the Bureau of Standards and meet so many academics around the world and in the US that now started devoting their attention to fire. So it was a learning experience for them, but they had a lot better skills than me, so I learned from some really, really good people. They inspired me, really.
ROD AMMON: Yes.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean there’s a person – like Howard Emmons from Harvard is viewed as a father of fire science, but if you go around the world, there’s other fathers. You have Phil Thomas in the UK. You have Kunio Kawagoe in Japan. These were pioneers that did a lot of work and directed work that led to the learning in these places, and then in the ‘70s, John Lyons helped to bring this all together at NBS. NBS was really – it was called a center for fire research, but it really became a center internationally.
ROD AMMON: Two things that are interesting to me. One is that I never thought of President Richard Nixon and tied that to America’s Burning. That’s surprising to me.
DR. QUINTIERE: No, that was a republican-based committee.
ROD AMMON: And I also think that I – me and my little world, we think of you as one of the godfathers of fire. As a matter of fact…
DR. QUINTIERE: No, no, no, it – I’m just an intermediary. There were some great people. People like Phil Thomas was doing work in the ‘60s, and someone once said, and this is actually true, that Phil Thomas worked on every problem in fire research from a fundamental point of view before anyone else. So new students in this field don’t go back far enough in the literature because some of these electronic databases stop at 1970 or something like that, but there was some fantastic work, and the British had a fire lab called the Fire Research Station. It sounds like a fire station, but it’s a research laboratory, and if you look at some of their annual reports, you would be really amazed at not just what they did, but how they all put it together in a layman’s presentation as an annual report. It’s really – there’s some of these things that still lie around some libraries.
ROD AMMON: So in other words for somebody to get these, you’re saying that a lot of them have not been digitized, or they aren’t available on the Internet yet.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, actually the old fire research notes are now available for free. Phil Thomas and Kunio Kawagoe and others – we form the International Association for Fire Safety Science. It’s a mouthful, International Association for Fire Safety Science, IAFSS. It’s the organization that exists today that tries to assemble research every three years for presentation and discussion, and the executive office now has all those proceedings for free on the Internet, so anyone could download them. And in addition, they also have all of the British old reports, the fire research notes, and they could download them, too. So anybody listening to this, go to IAFSS.org, look it up, see what you can get for free, join. You don’t have to be a scientist. This is open to everybody, and you’ll see what’s going on around the world today. Unfortunately, the – I would say over the last 20 years, we’ve gone away from fundamental work, and we’re just kind of solving problems and applying old techniques.
ROD AMMON: You’ve been saying that for years to me, that we need to do more.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, it’s 20 years. Yes, it’s 20 years.
ROD AMMON: So…
DR. QUINTIERE: It’s – I think other people see that, too, maybe not the new people in the field within that 20-year span, but the people that look back see that the work had a different tinge to it. Today, CFD modeling seems to be the cure-all, but underlying CFD modeling, there’s problems that are very fundamental and you have to look at them closely before you can confidently make a simplification that is easier to use.
ROD AMMON: Understood. So that gets to data in some cases, and one of the questions I had for you was, as someone who’s been around investigation, you and I have had some conversations, and I’ve heard you a little frustrated with some things involved in investigation or in data that you might have been able to get. What have you done to get better data yourself, or what have you done to get over some of the frustrations that you’ve had, or maybe they still exist?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, I don’t know how I classed my frustrations when we talked in the past, but you know the development of the ATF Fire Lab is a big accomplishment. I don’t think that’s supported sufficiently. I think the work they do is superb, and I wish that they had vehicle to get that work out to the fire investigator and others so it would just not be a laboratory in a background but something that comes to the forefront and produces reports that people can benefit from. The fact that that was not built on the campus of the University of Maryland is probably one of my biggest disappointments because it was by president order to be built on the university campus, and politically it got all screwed up.
ROD AMMON: Sorry to hear that.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean that was a loss to both ATF and the University of Maryland, so that’s something that’s not good. When you say data, I think more of research treatises and reports, and today, it’s Google. I mean you can get almost anything or you can find evidence of something from Google. You could either get the document or find out where it might be, so there’s – the time of going into a dusty library shelf and combing through books and index cards is over. I mean these search machines have leveled the playing field. I mean more than just in fire, but – so I think that the data and research information is quite accessible. The fundamental nature of the work in fire, maybe it’s not fully there like it was in the ‘70s, but it’ll come back. I mean there’s bastions of work now.
China has about two dozen institutions, academic institutions working on fire. They have a big program. They have a whole university academy that allows people to get degrees in engineering related to firefighting, fire investigation, fire regulations, fire engineering. So the world is changing. It’s globalizing, and there will be other places around the world where we have fire. There’s a meeting coming up in San Francisco. There’s some fire investigation work in that. It’s called a fire and materials meeting. That meeting is sponsored by a UK organization. If you look around and you try to find where is there a key meeting on fire research in the US, you’d be hard-pressed to find one other than that one.
ROD AMMON: I know there’s some work going on over at UL with Dan Madrzykowski and his folks.
DR. QUINTIERE: There’s work going on, but it’s much more limited. In other words, the fire program at NIST was 125 people in the – by the end of the ‘70s. Now, it’s 25.
ROD AMMON: I think we’re all running a little leaner than we care to.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean look – and the field has expanded enormously in terms of its scope and people interested in it, but people trying to do the work that advances the field is not there, and IAAI will have their meeting, and they’ll present some research-type work, but there’s really no academics in the US and government agencies. There’s no prime meeting in the US leading this anymore.
ROD AMMON: It seems even in higher education I see so many colleges, universities, all kinds of places of education that are driving education and fire investigation towards certificates or towards degrees, but you’re right. I don’t hear much about research.
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, and those degrees are capitalizing on the information that was developed in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so they’re teaching that material now. That’s wonderful. I mean that’s why I went into the academic world to transfer that information, but we need to, as a country, invest in this field. I mean fire has one application in investigation, but fire controls commerce through regulations, and it tries to get the right safety requirements in facilities, buildings, aircraft. You want to do that right, and you want to do that in the most efficient way, and you want to do that in a way that doesn’t hamper commerce.
ROD AMMON: So what’s the argument since we’re on the topic, and then maybe we can move on to something else, but I mean what’s the argument to government, to private sector hearing it from somebody like you with your credibility? How do you argue for better and more research?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, you might say it’s not a national government job, but if you look at the field of fire, there’s not one corporation or one state entity or even government agency that could carry the ball properly. It’s too small, so you need a national presence dealing with fire for efficiency’s sake and to make progress. That’s why you had America Burning. There was a research component to that as well as the development of the US Fire Academy and getting better statistics, so you need to have that consciousness going on at a national level. Other countries, fire is more in the national scope.
ROD AMMON: And they’re probably dealing with problems that we had years ago, so it’s…
DR. QUINTIERE: No, no, no, no the world is dealing with the same problems today. I mean just an example: if you have a material and it has to pass a flammability test to be sold, the flammability tests number into the hundreds, and every agency in the US, every jurisdiction has a slightly different test that you go around the world, those tests change. If you’re a manufacturer trying to sell your product globally, you have to deal with this whole morass. Why the heck can’t people settle on one approach? Now, who’s going to make that justified? It has to be some underlying science and technology.
ROD AMMON: Right, makes sense.
DR. QUINTIERE: But who’s going to keep it the way it is? People that don’t want to rock the status quo.
ROD AMMON: I mean we can’t – it doesn’t seem like we can even get it consistent across the states, and you’re talking about the globe, so I know, for instance, in California, we think we have such strict standards in so many things, and then meanwhile we end up with another warehouse fire.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, there’s always going to be fires. Fires are rare events. There’s always going to be something that goes wrong, and in that case, you bring that – I mean you go – that’s like the Rhode Island Nightclub Fire. Where were the inspectors? Why doesn’t fire prevention come to the forefront?
ROD AMMON: I guess there’s just a lot of priorities going on in these cities, and it’s…
DR. QUINTIERE: No, they don’t have the capability. They don’t have probably the knowledge base. They don’t have the money.
ROD AMMON: So you’ve been involved in some pretty large-scale investigations from what I remember, either involved in the investigation or researching it afterwards. You want to talk about one or two?
DR. QUINTIERE: World Trade Center.
ROD AMMON: That might have been one I was thinking of.
DR. QUINTIERE: See, now I wasn’t involved in that in any financial way. I mean no one signed me up so that I would pay – get paid to do some work.
ROD AMMON: So how did you get involved?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, like everyone else, I watched it happen. I was actually at FLETC at the ATF facility there, getting ready to teach, and actually I had some work to do during that time. So I was looking at this from the side really, and I was put on a committee that the American Civil Engineers put together to go to New York and start an investigation. And they had – I wasn’t on the site team, but I was on the second team, and I was getting emails from them, and between those emails and looking at the newspapers and seeing what some so-called experts were saying. It really drove me to speak out, and then when I spoke out, I got involved with some of the family members who wanted me to give them some advice, and I kind of stuck through that, and then I watched the whole investigation unfold, ultimately going to NIST, and I sat through all their meetings to see what they were going to do.
And then in the end, I was pretty disappointed, and if anyone goes to the testimony of the House Science Committee that got the final report from NIST, they’ll see that the first speaker before NIST got on the podium was Sally Regenhard, one of the family members that lost her son, and she was singularly up front, and the committee was asking her what she thought. And you’ll really get an earful if you look at her testimony because she was not happy with what NIST did, and I could point to what appear to be errors in what they did. But – so that’s another frustrating side of things. I don’t reach the same conclusion that NIST did, and their conclusion seems to blame totally the airplane. My conclusion blames the people that put the – decided on how much insulation to use on the steel.
ROD AMMON: I remember that.
DR. QUINTIERE: Those two conclusions lead to different implications, and so they’re – that’s it in a nutshell. There’s more to it than that. I mean from a fire investigation standpoint, why would you take all the steel, distribute it around the country for little souvenirs, sell most of it to Korea, and not segregate it out so that you would have the steel on the fire floors as forensic evidence from which you could learn the temperature the steel got to, which would be very important to tell you about how and why this thing collapsed? Now, why wasn’t that done? And there were people screaming to do that, me included. This guy, Professor…from Berkeley – he got kicked off the committee, and I didn’t get any more emails after that.
ROD AMMON: Wow, I remember you talking about that, and I remember the frustration, and I’ve thought about it a lot off and on, and I remember walking past the NIST building and seeing a lot of twisted metal with numbers on it.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, NIST got that stuff afterwards. They called me up. They said, well, should we get this stuff? I said, look, you don’t have the right steel. Get whatever you can. Maybe something is in there. So they got a truckload, but I mean the steel was marked, so when they were pulling out those – the big items, you can go directly across from the new World Trade Center in Jersey City, and you can look directly at the new World Trade Center, and right there, there’s a big steel column piece, and it’s marked, and so from the marking on it, the number on it, people knew where it came from. So as they’re taking that stuff out, all they had to do was look at it or look at it when they got to the fresh kills dumpsite and then segregate it out. I mean why – I mean you had a former prosecutor as the mayor of New York at that time. We wrote to the Department of Design and Construction in New York. There were newspaper articles written on this about why it wasn’t being done. It never got done.
ROD AMMON: Do you think it was just the mass? I mean to me, I just feel like it was just the overall experience and the effect on the entire area, the people, the geography, the business, everything about it. It seemed to be so big.
DR. QUINTIERE: No, I don’t think so because, look, there was an emotional reaction to this whole thing, but then there’s – there needs to be – for any intelligent group looking at this, there needs to be a thoughtful reaction to this. An investigation was not on the forefront. NIST didn’t get any money for this until a year later, so they didn’t even know they were going to get any investigative responsibility. The 9/11 Commission wasn’t signed off on until a year later. I mean if you look at the response to national disasters in this country or other countries, it’s I think a lot quicker. If you look at the process of litigation and what that brings to the table, litigation was avoided in this case, so there were no – there was no investigation in any depth any place except in NIST and for the building. You had the 9/11 Commission, but the 9/11 Commission had to end in, I think, 18 months. The NIST thing went on for about five years. Who the heck cares about a report five years later?
ROD AMMON: Boy, and you know I can’t think of a larger case of having to collect evidence and secure evidence.
DR. QUINTIERE: Right, right, I mean there was a guy screaming at me. He’s the guy that worked for Siemens and had the contract for the building-monitoring system. He was screaming at me off the emails, why isn’t anyone looking for these little electronic boxes that he said would have survived the crash and the fire? He said that would tell you what the sensors were reading during and before the fire.
ROD AMMON: Wow, I never knew that.
DR. QUINTIERE: And I sent all that out, and it was like nothing came back. I mean maybe I wasn’t forceful enough but…
ROD AMMON: Or maybe they just didn’t see the end game.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean this guy was screaming and yelling. I mean he said somebody should get these – this – these electronic boxes. It was like the black box on the airplane because it would tell you the smoke alarms, the temperatures in the building, the heating and ventilating system, all of that.
ROD AMMON: Wow.
DR. QUINTIERE: And so you would get information, and anyone knows that in a fire, these records lead to certain conclusions.
ROD AMMON: So I guess…
DR. QUINTIERE: If they’re analyzed. So I have a lot of frustration with regard to that. There’s been – I have appeared on two documentaries, one in France and one in Germany, that tried to follow this up. There’s been scant activity in the US. Every once in a while, you’ll see some new documentary. I think the last one was by Discovery Channel.
ROD AMMON: I was thinking NOVA. Didn’t NOVA do one?
DR. QUINTIERE: That was early on I think, but somebody did something recently where these two physicists in New York figured out why the building fell down so fast, and they did it by paper and pencil, and they confirmed their calculation. But then they went off and they said that they thought there was an explosion due to aluminum melting and interacting with water, which is too far out. But there’s a lot of conspiracy theorists that say the building was taken down by charges planted in the building by the Bush administration. You could see where…
ROD AMMON: I think sometimes people just want to move on, and it loses priority.
DR. QUINTIERE: People want to move on. I mean I knew the reporters from the New York Times that worked this, and they just said, Jim, it’s old news. Forget about it.
ROD AMMON: Well, one thing you can’t forget about is the fact that when fire investigators go to a fire, they need to secure the scene, and they need to keep in touch with every bit of evidence that they can, and I guess…
DR. QUINTIERE: Look, the ATF was thrown out of the Pentagon by the FBI because they were telling the FBI to secure the scene and keep the evidence where it was.
ROD AMMON: I wasn’t aware of that. I do know that Mike Bouchard had been involved with…
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, he wrote a report. I probably published…
ROD AMMON: Say that again. I’m sorry.
DR. QUINTIERE: He wrote a report on this, after-action report. It’s probably published.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean why – you have to – why didn’t the ATF guys go to New York and try to help out? They were key in the ’93 bombing. They found the truck with the New York bomb squad.
DR. QUINTIERE: Why didn’t NTSB play a role in the investigation? They usually write a report and tell you what happened publicly.
ROD AMMON: I don’t know, but I guess we’re leaving some questions for people.
DR. QUINTIERE: The FBI said you’re not on the scene. This is terrorist activity. It’s our job. We know this was arson. We don’t need ATF, and that’s it, so you had no ATF involvement, the best national force for fire investigation. You had no NTSB involvement, the best investigative group in the world probably for air crashes and incidents like this, and they were not involved.
ROD AMMON: I didn’t know that. That surprises me.
DR. QUINTIERE: There’s no NTSB report.
DR. QUINTIERE: And one of the issues is that NIST claims that when the airplane went through the building, it knocked off all the insulation. Read their report. They said that 45 of 49 columns in the center had all of their insulation removed. I think NTSB would have to have something to say about that, whether that’s plausible or not.
ROD AMMON: Very interesting.
DR. QUINTIERE: I mean NIST came to that conclusion after people on their advisory panel told me that NIST couldn’t figure out how the building came down, and then they – by taking the insulation off the core columns, they jiggled up something, but that’s a real stretch. I mean I don’t know if you’re going to play all this back on your podcast.
ROD AMMON: I’m sitting here going, man, I knew there were some things that happened. You know, I think it’s very interesting, and I think you bring up a lot of good questions, and that’s classic of a researcher to be looking for answers and trying to get information.
DR. QUINTIERE: Two years ago, NIST finally published in the open literature their report, so when they publish it in the open literature, you can now write a letter to the editor. Now, who wrote a letter to the editor? Me and one of the former people on their advisory panel.
ROD AMMON: And how did that go?
DR. QUINTIERE: Oh that’s a story in itself. The journal that published their report in the end wanted to redact half of our letter to the editor, so we went to a different journal.
ROD AMMON: And why did they want to redact it?
DR. QUINTIERE: You’ll have to ask that editor.
ROD AMMON: Okay, I’m not sure – you know here I wanted to spotlight on some of the things that you’ve been involved in, and I know that this was a big deal. I think just the fact that with your credibility and with your desire to see future things like this have – I don’t know – be handled like any scene, like any crime scene or fire investigation scene, I’m hearing your clearly that there are things that we could have done to secure more and to do better research and to find better answers, but I appreciate that.
DR. QUINTIERE: You know like – you know witnesses’ stories are real important.
ROD AMMON: Right.
DR. QUINTIERE: NIST had to get special permission until they – to interrogate any people. I think it took them two years before they could do that.
ROD AMMON: Wow, and I guess in NIST’s case, they would be doing informational interviews sort of.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, NIST had their lawyers working as defense lawyers.
ROD AMMON: Wow, so…
DR. QUINTIERE: There’s – one guy – there’s a guy whose name is – they’re drilling through the wall now.
ROD AMMON: They’re coming to get you.
DR. QUINTIERE: There’s something on the Internet. This guy put together a story, and he’s a journalist from California, but it’s in the background. No one cares about this anymore, but we did go to war over it.
ROD AMMON: Something tells me people do care. I don’t know. I can imagine that now that we’re at this point, it would be difficult to really raise it up again, and I’ve heard some of the arguments that you discussed about insulation, so I don’t think all was lost there, and I’m grateful for you sharing this story.
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, what I would have hoped for is someone just take a look at what I’m saying and take a look at what NIST has and maybe make a judgment because if I’m right and they’re wrong, then they really screwed up.
ROD AMMON: Well, that’s above my pay grade I think is what guys in my business say often.
DR. QUINTIERE: What can I say?
ROD AMMON: It’s interesting. Well, you took this from a piece where I wanted to highlight some of your work into a pretty in-depth story of a huge challenge in investigation, so I guess I sort of want to shift away a little bit and wrap this up and get from you some things from what you’ve learned and from your research and from things as large as the World Trade Center. What do you want to communicate to investigators as a researcher?
DR. QUINTIERE: Well, keep demanding that science underlie their technology and keep learning because I think the investigators have made the biggest push into the science of the field, and they’re the biggest promoters of it, and I think that they should stay that way, and they’ll be driving the field. I mean this meeting now in San Francisco, fire materials meeting, has the whole section now with regard to fire investigation, so it shows that fire investigation is moving into the area of research and developing new knowledge and all of that’s good.
ROD AMMON: Well, good. You’ve given me hope. I appreciate that.
DR. QUINTIERE: There’s hope. There’s hope.
ROD AMMON: And I often say to my wife…
DR. QUINTIERE: The Chinese will save the field.
ROD AMMON: I often say to my wife – she’s like, God, you’re so critical about some things, and I say well, you know, some of the greatest criticism is also surrounded sometimes by the greatest hope.
DR. QUINTIERE: Sure, the field has moved enormously. It’s made really progress. I’m just – I was fortunate enough to be in the right place and to be associated with the field and people in the field and investigators, researchers. It’s been a wonderful life experience.
ROD AMMON: It’s – it really has, and I’ve got to tell you personally it helped me and my company. It helped my company obviously by having business that we were able to do by developing these networks to teach online with…
DR. QUINTIERE: You guys do a good job.
ROD AMMON: Thank you.
DR. QUINTIERE: What you’ve done for IAAI, with CFITrainer, that’s fantastic.
ROD AMMON: Well, that wouldn’t have happened without that great network of people including yourself, and when I think about all that, I am very grateful, and I’m excited about the fact that it’s an industry where people spend a lot of time learning and they’re hungry to learn so…
DR. QUINTIERE: Yes, and you can remember IAAI was party to a suit where they wanted to stop this thing about science and experts, and they really changed 180 degrees.
ROD AMMON: Interesting.
DR. QUINTIERE: So that’s a big, big plus. That organization has done great work to integrate science into the field in a way that’s not threatening to the investigator and helps them learn like through your work, and so it’s fantastic.
ROD AMMON: Well, I’m very grateful for your time, and I want to thank you for a lot of the people that I bumped into or the people who originally introduced me for all of your work in writing and teaching. From what I’ve learned, you’ve helped everybody in this industry have a better understanding of fire, so thanks for your time.
DR. QUINTIERE: And now my main priority is to get my routine down for the Mummers and be successful in this New Year’s Day parade.
ROD AMMON: Well, I – the last time I saw you move, I think it was at Rock ‘n Bowl in New Orleans, and you could move then, so we’ll all look for you.
DR. QUINTIERE: All right.
ROD AMMON: Thanks very much for your time, Dr. Quintiere.
DR. QUINTIERE: Bye-bye, bye-bye.
ROD AMMON: Bye-bye. Well, that’s about it for our podcast this month. Once again, we want to thank Dr. Quintiere not only for his time today but for his contributions to fire science and more specifically to the fire investigation field.
Well, today’s podcast went a little bit long, but considering Dr. Quintiere had a lot of interesting things to say, we just decided to let it roll, so even though we’ve been trying to cut the podcast down under 30 minutes, once again, I hope you enjoyed the longer format today.
By the way, we’re also looking for your feedback if you’ll notice on the podcast page. I know some of you listen on the Apple podcast, but you also – I think the majority of our people listen just online, so if you could, take a look under the player now. There’s a feedback box, and we’d like to hear what you have to say about the show or if you have any comments or suggestions for content that we might cover in the future, we’d appreciate hearing from you.
Hope you all had a beautiful holiday together with your families and friends, and hope you have a great new year. For CFITrainer.net and the International Association of Arson Investigators, I’m Rod Ammon.
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.