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.
<p>Welcome to IAAI’s July 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This month, we’ll take a closer look at outdoor grill fires, discuss a fatal fire at a homeless camp in Southern New Jersey, summarize some new NIST research on human behavior during building fires, and cover the latest in IAAI news.</p>
<p>We begin with a classic summer danger: outdoor grill fires. According to NFPA Journal, the Barbecue Industry Association reports that three out of four households in the United States own a barbecue grill. However, few people realize that something so commonplace has the potential to injure and kill. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association’s report “U.S. Home Cooking Fire Patterns and Trends” found gas and charcoal grills are linked to 1500 structure fires and 4800 outdoor fires in or on residential properties every year. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 5,000 Americans are injured by grill fires annually.</p>
<p>Two interesting differences exist between charcoal grill fires and gas grill fires. Charcoal grill fires are most commonly caused by unattended cooking and placing combustibles too close to the heat source. However, the leading cause of gas grill fires is part failure, leaks or breaks. These causes account for 37.1% of gas grill structure fires and 60.5% of gas grill outdoor fires, while unattended cooking caused only 11.7% and 2.5%, respectively. The second difference is in the first material ignited. For charcoal grills, the first material ignited in a structure fire is most often the home’s exterior trim and wall covering and, in an outdoor fire, its plants, grass or brush. For gas grills, the first material ignited is typically fuel and accelerants, whether the fire spreads to the structure or is limited to the outdoors.</p>
<p>These facts have important implications for the investigator of outdoor grill fires. The fire investigator should:
<li> Determine the type of grill</li><br><br>
<li> Ascertain the first material ignited</li><br><br>
<li> Observe and document the mechanical parts of a gas grill, checking for malfunction, leaks, and breaks, as well as signs of fuel gas ignition outside the ignition area associated with normal operation</li><br><br>
<li> Observe, and if necessary reconstruct, the grill position and location, including proximity to the home’s exterior and/or vegetation combustibles</li><br><br>
<li> Check for the presence of an over pressure device or (OPD) on a propane tank, which is identified by its triangular-shaped hand wheel. An OPD is required by NFPA 58. It shuts off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.</li><br><br>
<li> Interview witnesses about cooking practices, actions at the time of the fire, location and position of the grill at the time of the fire, and grill maintenance procedures, pay particular attention to whether or not the user checked gas grill connections and possible leak points prior to using the grill. Improper grill use practices include:<br><br>
<li> Use of flammable liquids other than charcoal starter fluid<br><br>
<li> Use of starter fluid or flammable liquids while the fire is lit<br><br>
<li> Failure to shut off the gas to the barbecue after completing grilling<br><br>
<li> Storage of propane cylinders indoors and/or in hot locations<br><br>
<li> Leaving the grill unattended<br><br>
<li> Failure to clean the grill, leading to grease buildup<br><br>
<li> Misuse of the grill, such as using charcoal briquettes in a gas grill
<p>Fire investigators should also realize that, when a mechanical malfunction is the cause of a grill fire, that information should be reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other responsible entities. A grill is an appliance and, as such, is subject to design standards, product recalls, and design improvements. The development of these standards, the issuing of recalls, and the impetus for design changes are all driven in part by reports of grill malfunctions. Proper reporting ensures future consumer product safety.</p>
<p>For more information on NFPA standards affecting grill design, including NFPA 58, visit <a href="http://www.nfpa.org" target="_blank">nfpa.org</a>.</p>
<p>Now, let’s take a brief look at two recent news stories.</p>
<p>On February 1, 2009, a fire swept through a homeless camp in the woods of Lakewood, NJ. The fire took the life of Jimmy Wilcox, a homeless man who burned to death in his tent. The fire was caused by the propane heater keeping him warm; it appeared that Jimmy was asleep when he threw off his blanket, which landed on the propane infrared heating element. The blanket ignited, flames surrounded the heating system and burned off the fuel supply hose, causing a jet of flame to spread the fire throughout the tent. This fatal fire has touched off a town wide conversation about what to do about the camp, and others like it. Homeless advocates were angered by the town and county’s solution of prohibiting propane heating and open fires and evicting the homeless from the woods without offering resettlement in suitable local housing. As of May 2009, not only were the homeless camps in Lakewood still intact, one of them, KP Tent City, had become a community, complete with a shared well, a food shed, propane-heated shower, a small chicken coop for eggs and a garden for vegetables, and a washer and dryer. Lakewood Mayor Robert Singer has called these camps, “a nightmare waiting to happen.” But, as the economy continues to worsen and more homeless move into the woods, the town continues to struggle with what to do, even as town officials vow that they will not allow another winter to pass with these camps still standing. This story shows how the effects of a fire can stretch far beyond the implications of the origin and cause determination, in this case into difficult political, social, and practical issues. </p>
<p>In other news, NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory has released the results of its research into understanding occupant movement, behavior and overall safety during building emergencies. Four papers detail the findings. They are:
<li> NIST Special Publication 1620, a Summary of NIST/GSA Cooperative Research on the Use of Elevators During Fire Emergencies</li><br><br>
<li> NIST Technical Note 1623, Emergency Egress From Buildings: Part 1: History and Current Regulations for Egress System Design and Part 2: New Thinking on Egress From Buildings</li><br><br>
<li> NIST Technical Note 1619, Modeling Human Behavior During Building Fires and finally.</li><br><br>
<li> NIST Technical Note 1624, Stairwell Evacuation from Buildings: What We Know We Don't Know</li>
<p>In addition to the obvious building design and fire protection implications of this research, there are also interesting findings that apply to fire investigators seeking to understand why fire victims behaved the way they did during a fire. Some of these findings include:
<li> Typical engineering parameters like delay in evacuation initiation, distance traveled during evacuation, density of people, stairwell width, and presence of firefighters explain only a fraction of the observed variance in occupant movement speeds when evacuating a building. NIST calls for more research to understand the physiological and behavioral aspects of the evacuation process. </li><br><br>
<li> Existing evacuation models make assumptions and simplifications about occupant behavior that can be unrealistic and are likely to produce inaccurate results. A new comprehensive theory of occupant behavior in evacuations from building fires should be able to predict individual behavior and group dynamics that are likely to occur in a building fire. Occupants’ actions vary based on the cues that they perceive, their interpretations of the event and risk, and the decisions that they make about next steps. NIST offers a conceptual model for how this behavioral process might work. It also offers.</li><br><br>
<li> A fresh look at the use of elevators during fire emergencies.</li>
<p>To access this research free of charge, visit <a href="http://www.fire.nist.gov" target="_blank">www.fire.nist.gov</a>.</p>
<p>Finally, we close with some news from IAAI.</p>
<p>The IAAI Election Results are in. Incoming officers are Second Vice President Rodney Pevytoe, and Board of Directors Members George Codding, George Wendt, Roger Krupp, and Ed Rostalski. IAAI congratulates the winners and thanks everyone who ran for these volunteer positions.</p>
<p>IAAI reminds all IAAI Certified Fire Investigators that IAAI-CFI recertification now requires that a minimum of two tested training courses (or 1 point) must have been obtained from CFITrainer.Net. In addition, the tentative interim amendment (TIA) for certification fee restructuring becomes effective on October 1, 2009. For more information go to firearson.com or read the article in Fire and Arson Investigator.</p>
<p>That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll see you again next month.</p>
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.
In this program, we will look at emerging technologies that fire investigators are integrating into their daily investigative work with great success.
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.