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 the CFITrainer.Net Podcast. We have two interviews today. We're pleased to have the new president of the IAAI, Rick Jones, with us to talk about new IAAI initiatives and planning. We'll talk to him in a bit. But we're going to start with the IAAI Investigators of the Year for 2020. This annual award recognizes outstanding fire investigation case work.
This year recipients are Scott Bennett, IAAI-CFI of Fire and Explosion Consultants, and Mark Shockman, IAAI-CFI with Fire Science Investigations, for their work on a house fire that started in a gas fireplace. With us today is Scott Bennett. Thanks for being with us, Scott.
Scott Bennett: Well, thank you.
Rod Ammon: We wanted to follow the story that way you experienced it. We don't often talk about these cases when you as the investigator sort of drop into the middle of them and there already has been some investigation before you get involved. How did you and your team get involve in the case?
Scott Bennett: Very simply, back in April of 2018, I received a phone call from an acquaintance of mine. He was a local defense attorney. And before he was a defense attorney, he was an assistant county prosecutor. So in his role as a prosecutor, he and I prosecuted arson offenders together before I retired from public sector. I received a phone call and the friend of mine, the attorney acquaintance, said very simply, "Scott, I have a case I would like for you to get involved with."
I reminded him that I was retired and that I did not do criminal work per se, but he strong-armed me and really asked me to look at this case. I asked him to send me the investigation reports and I would look at it. Over the next 24 hours, I reviewed the fire department report, the fire department investigation report, the police department report, along with the private fire investigator's report. Upon reviewing these reports, I called the attorney friend of mine back and I told him not only would I take this case, that I would do it pro bono.
I told him that his client did not set this house on fire. There was certainly strong physical evidence that I had reviewed indicating that quite frankly the fire department, the police department, and the insurance private investigator, they got it wrong.
Rod Ammon: All right.
Scott Bennett: That's how I got onto this case.
Rod Ammon: So Scott, that's a pretty amazing introduction. This case had both criminal and civil insurance dimensions. What was your role? What were you tasked with? I think you already told us why you took the case.
Scott Bennett: Initially, my role was to review other investigator's reports, notes, photographs. And upon doing that, I noted that the fire had occurred in a certain jurisdiction in Ohio, and my business partner worked for that municipality part-time. So, I knew that potentially that could become a conflict, so I referred this case to Mark Shockman. Mark is another CFI that worked for his own company. I sit down with Mark Shockman. He and I reviewed this case together.
Mark agreed to take the case, and I agreed to continue to work the case, but be the behind the scenes guys in a supportive fashion to help.
Rod Ammon: Wow. You gave me so much information at the beginning. I was planning on asking you about other people's case involvement, public/private insurance, and what kinds of reports and documentation did you review. You've already spoken about any of that, but did you want to bring up any specifics that really stuck out?
Scott Bennett: Sure. Mark Shockman and I, after he and I sit down and we reviewed everything that we had, the next step was to sit down with the victim here. I called his attorney. I set up a meeting. The attorney very candidly said, "You guys don't need me there," which is kind of odd. You're being arrested for a very serious felony, you would think that the attorney would want to be there, but the attorney was convincing and said, quite frankly, to Mark Shockman and I, "You don't need me there. I believe he didn't do it, and I think after you talk to him without me being there, you're going to agree the same."
So we did. Mark and I sit down with this guy for the better part of four hours. During the interview with this... We'll call him Tim. As we're interviewing Tim, we take a break. Obviously Tim become emotional during the interview. At certain points, we take a break. I walk outside, and my secretary that's sitting outside down the hall and around the corner is absolutely bawling her eyes out. And she's saying, "I can't believe today somebody could be treated the way that man in there has been treated by the authorities."
Rod Ammon: That's a shame to hear.
Scott Bennett: It is a shame to hear. It is absolutely a shame to hear. During the interview process, we learned that Tim, the victim, in a matter of days of being arrested, lost his six figure job. He lost his wife. He lost his kids. He lost his house. He lost his vehicle. This guy had nothing over being indicted, and then the prosecutor in the case did a big press release saying that the victim, we'll call him the victim, Tim set his house on fire with his two children in the house. Now, I want you to think about that for a minute.
For 30 years, I spent my life arresting arson offenders, people that set their houses on fire with their kids in it. That rises to a different level of arson when somebody sets their home on fire with their children in the home. That was the allegation here by the authorities. But then after the arrest, they set his bond at 25,000, 10%. And if you're able to put up $2,500 cash, there's no restrictions, meaning the judge in this case nor the prosecutor asked for any restrictions. Keep in mind, this man is accused of setting his house on fire with his two children in the house.
Why in the world wouldn't the judge in this case or the prosecutor make it very clear, "If you're able to make bond, you are staying away from your children." That didn't occur. There were no restriction. So for $2,500, Tim was able to walk out of the county jail with this serious felony charge and two misdemeanor charges hanging over his head.
Rod Ammon: That's painful.
Scott Bennett: Think about this. You set your home on fire with your children in it, they charge you with a very high felony, aggregated arson, a felony 2 in the state of Ohio, but then they only charged him with two misdemeanors for the children. Unheard of.
Rod Ammon: Wow.
Scott Bennett: Rises to the level of attempted aggregated murder.
Rod Ammon: It's incredible painful, and I can't imagine how... Well, there must have been great relief to have you and Mark.
Scott Bennett: Well, as the case starts making its way through the system, Mark and I knew the prosecutor in this case was not going to dismiss the charges simply based on Mark and I saying it's not an arson. We knew that we were forensically going to have to show this, so we put a team together. We put an electrical engineer on this case. We hired a professional engineer, PE. We also hired a metallurgist because we knew the other side, the insurance company, the fire department, the police department.
There was allegations that Tim used a hacksaw blade and cut a gas line in his fireplace and that's how we allegedly started his home on fire. Well, we knew forensically, if a hacksaw blade was used to cut a gas line, there's going to be a transference of metals from the hacksaw blade to the gas line, from the gas line to the hacksaw blade. So it's very simple. We knew that the insurance company's fire investigator retained evidence over 30 days after the fire. Now think of this. A house fire happens.
It's investigated by the fire department and the police department, and their total on scene investigation is about an hour, is about an hour. So within an hour, they did a complete thorough investigation. They leave the scene. The insurance company comes in for 30 days. There's contractors in this house doing what's referred to as demo work, taking the drywall off the walls, taking the insulation out, taking all the wet stuff out of the house, ripping everything burned in this house out.
31 days they get into this and realize that the original estimate to fix the house was around 60 to $70,000. 31 days they get into this and realized they're going to have to replace the roof. So now it goes from 50 or 60,000 to over 100,000. Well, that brings in a different person with the insurance company. That person says, "Oh, we better hire a fire investigator." 31 days after the fire, the insurance investigator comes out and determines that Tim set his home on fire by taking a hacksaw blade, cutting the gas line, and set the fire in the fireplace.
Scott Bennett: So the fire department and the insurance company fire investigator, they work in concert together. And amazing in this case, you can take one report, lay it on top of the other and it's almost verbatim.
Rod Ammon: So help me out a little bit with the timing because maybe I missed something here, but you said the fire department went in there, did an investigation within an hour. Was he arrested the next day? How did the timing go?
Scott Bennett: Well, the fire department... This particular municipality, they don't have their own fire investigator. So during the fire, the fire department requested the local county arson team to respond. So this investigator responded and spent about an hour on his investigation. Did not remove any evidence. Did not do any interviews and took minimally photographs and left. He determined that the fire at that point was determined.
Rod Ammon: Sorry if I'm speechless, but I'm sitting here trying to figure out how this all comes about with the amount of or lack thereof of investigation as you said.
Scott Bennett: Well, 30 days into it, the insurance company hires its fire investigator. That fire investigator representing the insurance company called the county arson task force investigator and said, "Hey, I'm going to be over there tomorrow. Can you come meet me?" So the fire department goes back out to the scene 31 days later. They meet with the insurance investigator. The insurance investigator says, "Hey, this looks like it's an arson fire." The insurance investigator and the fire department investigator, they leave.
The insurance investigator calls Tim, the property owner, and says, "I need to come back tomorrow to remove evidence. Can you meet me back out there?" Well, Tim agrees. Tim has cooperated all the way through this for 31 days, 32 days. Answered anybody's questions about anything. And then the insurance investigator says, "I need to come back tomorrow and remove evidence." Tim agrees to meet him out there. While Tim is at his burnt out residence, several police officers arrive. The police officers almost surround themselves around Tim.
This is the first time Tim was made aware that something's going on here. What's going on? So Tim is waiting for the insurance investigator to arrive. And as the insurance investigator arrives, so does the local arson task force investigator. We find out later that the insurance company called the police department and said, "We're investigating an arson fire and we think the homeowner might be giving us some problems. Can you send a cop out there for us?"
Keep in mind until that phone call was made, Tim has answered any and everybody's questions, has cooperated more than fully, because Tim is being told that this is an accidental fire. And now all of a sudden, 31-32 days into this, an insurance investigator shows up and says, "We need to take that fireplace as evidence."
Rod Ammon: Wow. Okay. So help me out a little bit more. What did they suggest the motive was, and what was the evidence that they found in this hour when they first did this investigation that made them or led them to believe that this was arson?
Scott Bennett: Well, I don't know what evidence they found in an hour. I just don't know. I guess that will come out now in the civil litigation. Their allegation is, both from the fire department and the insurance investigator, that Tim, the homeowner, took a hacksaw blade, cut this gas line in his fireplace, then turned the natural gas on and lit it on fire, causing a jet of flaming gas to shoot out of the fireplace and set the house on fire. Let's back up just a little bit. The afternoon of the day of the fire, it was chilly.
It was in April of 2018, early April. Chilly outside. Tim is at his house and he's waiting for his two daughters to get off the school bus. Tim had just got hired that week on this new six figure IT job. So Tim is at home. The school bus pulls up. He walks out of his front door, down the driveway, greets his two daughters, says hi to the school bus driver, walks his daughters back in the house. They're in the house 15-20 minutes. One of the daughters says, "Dad, can you start a fire in the fireplace? It's chilly."
Tim goes to the fireplace and lights debris that's in the fireplace on fire, whatever, a burnt log, cardboard box material. Lights it on fire. Goes back into the kitchen. He's in the kitchen for a given period of time and the neighbor comes beating on his door. And the neighbor says, "Your house is on fire." Tim says, "You're crazy. My house isn't on fire." No smoke in the house at all. This is a big two story house. No smoke in the house. The neighbor steps on the front porch and points up.
Tim walks out on the front porch, turns around and looks and sees fire coming up around the roof where his chimney chase is. Tim gets his two daughters out of the house. Calls the fire department. He's on the phone to 911. Goes around. Gets a garden hose from his house and he's spraying water on the roof trying to keep the fire in check until the fire department arrives.
Rod Ammon: Wow.
Scott Bennett: The allegation is that at some point he takes a hacksaw blade, cuts his gas line, and causes a jet flame to come out of the fireplace and catches something on fire with his kids in the house. When the neighbor knocks on the door, there is no smoke at all in this residence. None. To the point Tim says, "My house isn't on fire," and the neighbor points up and look.
Rod Ammon: Were these witnesses ever interviewed?
Scott Bennett: I can tell you that we interviewed them.
Rod Ammon: Okay. We'll leave it at that. I get inquisitive with this stuff. So now I'm sitting here going, well, why would you throw debris into a gas fireplace? Was it a gas ignition?
Scott Bennett: It's a gas fireplace, but they use the gas to help start the fire.
Rod Ammon: Got it. Got it. Okay.
Scott Bennett: As Mark Shockman and I get involved in this, we know that 30 plus days later, the insurance company removed evidence. Now comes time we need to see this evidence. We knew that we're going to have one opportunity to look at it, so we put our team together. We knew that in the area where the fire originated, there was an electrical outlet. Certainly we know electric can cause a fire, so we hire an electrical engineer. Because we knew that if we're going to look at it, we're going to do it by the numbers.
So we tell the insurance company for Tim, "We want to come see the evidence." They make arrangements. They gave us a date and time. We traveled to a different state. We walk in and the investigator immediately says to me, "Scott, why are you here?" I told him my involvement in this case would be for any civil ramifications, but I also said that we're here to document and look at the evidence. During that examination, the saw blade is there.
And I asked the insurance investigator, "Where exactly did the saw blade... Where did you find it exactly?" Because there were photographs taken by the fire department and by others showing the debris in the fireplace after the fire. Guess what's not in those photographs? The saw blade. So it become important to me to want to know where did they find this saw blade. So I asked the question, where did it come from? And you know what the answer was?
"Scott, when I was rocking the fireplace back and forth to remove it for evidence, it fell down from above."
Rod Ammon: So it was left over from construction.
Scott Bennett: Absolutely left over from construction. Our metallurgist that we had with us at the time looked at the saw blade, photo documented the saw blade, and then grabbed me and Mark by our arms and said, "I need to see you gentlemen outside." We walked outside and before the door could even shut, he's telling us certain things about that saw blade, example being, "That saw blade had never been used to cut a gas line with."
Rod Ammon: Amazing. Boy, that's a...
Scott Bennett: But again, we know the prosecutor is not going to dismiss charges because they went public. They did a big press release that this guy set his house on fire with his two children in the house. Big press release. They're not going to... The attorney that brought me in on this, remember I told you he used to be an assistant county prosecutor, and he did arson cases.
Ironically enough, the county prosecutor who was prosecuting Tim also used to be a county prosecutor in the jurisdiction that I worked in, and also he and I prosecuted arson offenders together.
Rod Ammon: Wait a minute, you used the name Tim.
Scott Bennett: Tim is the homeowner that was arrested.
Rod Ammon: That's what I thought. You didn't just say he was also a district attorney, did you?
Scott Bennett: No, no, no. The attorney that brought me in that was representing Tim used to be an assistant district attorney and he prosecuted arson cases. That's how he knew me.
Rod Ammon: Okay.
Scott Bennett: Ironically enough, the prosecutor who was prosecuting Tim in this case also was an arson prosecutor that I used to work with.
Rod Ammon: Wow. Small world.
Scott Bennett: So when Tim's attorney reached out to the county prosecutor and said, "Look, we got Scott Bennett on this case. You know Scott. I know Scott. Scott's team is in place, and Scott's telling us Tim didn't do it and the hacksaw blade that was there never cut the gas line." The response was... And I think the attorney wanted to try to set up a meeting with me, them, get us all in a room, let's talk about this case. And the prosecutor said, "Well, Scott can tell the jury he didn't do it."
Scott Bennett: We knew they were not going to dismiss the charges. That just wasn't going to happen, so we knew that forensically we had to show. Once Mark and I met with our team that we brought me after we looked at the evidence, we knew that the next game plan was to forensically examine the gas line, meaning put it under a microscope, and also forensically examine the hacksaw blade. Remember I talked about it earlier that if two metals come together, there's going to be pieces of metal left.
Rod Ammon: Right.
Scott Bennett: So now it's time to put them under a microscope. We requested that to occur. The insurance company hired a doctor of metallurgy, a very well-known person in the industry. And between them and us, we agreed on a date and time to have our doctor of metallurgy look at the evidence. Both their metallurgist, our metallurgist got together. They open the evidence up. They close the evidence up. And our metallurgist called us and said, "The gas line had never ever been cut. Where they said it was cut, it was rusted in half."
Rod Ammon: Okay. I'm just sitting here trying not to breath heavy or step on you while you're talking, but I...
Scott Bennett: It's a shame that Mark and I... And Mark and I were good friends before this case and got to be even better friends during this case. And Mark and I often had a saying, and we say it today, It's a shame it could happen to you. It started out as a joke between Mark and I, but we very quickly realized how serious that was.
Rod Ammon: Yeah, sure.
Scott Bennett: That statement that it could happen to you.
Rod Ammon: Yeah. Well, you guys certainly showed that. This might be, I don't know, stepping sideways, but we always like to focus on the scientific method.
Scott Bennett: Sure.
Rod Ammon: What hypothesis did you test and how? You already talked about the experts you brought in and a lot of the things that you've done in the testing. But if you had to, I don't know, give us a summary of that, how would you describe it?
Scott Bennett: Well, I would start with you test your witnesses. What did your witnesses actually see, and where were they when they saw whatever it is they saw? You have got to start there. Then you look at the physical evidence. You look at fire patterns. Are there fire patterns that support whatever your theory is? If not, you got to go back to the beginning and start over. That is part of what we do on the scientific method. Then you look at, again, the physical evidence. You look at the fireplace. You look at the gas line.
You look at the hacksaw blade that was found. Prior to this person being arrested, they should have looked at the physical evidence, put it under a microscope, done what we call in industry as an SEM, which is a site scanning microscope, and actually looked to see did that blade come in contact with that gas line and is that even a theory? And it wasn't done until we got involved in this case and demanded it be done.
Once that was done and our report was completed, and our report was very long, the prosecutor in this case got all of our reports, our metallurgist's reports, our electrical engineer's reports, and on June the 18th, all charges were dropped against Tim.
Rod Ammon: Well, job well done. It sort of saddens me. I think about this and, well, it's obviously sad. But one of the things it sounds like is that there's a lack of funding for proper fire investigation in the area where it was done in the first place.
Scott Bennett: Lack of funding. Certainly lack of training. Lack of knowledge. I'm sure there'll be a lot of finger pointing as the civil litigation makes its way through. But I remember December of 18, I remember it well. Mark and I were talking in this case daily. Daily. We had done open records requests. We had received tons of information that we had requested with an open records request. We requested radio transmissions, and it was amazing to listen to things that were said on the radio. We had all of that.
And then Mark and I would communicate sometimes daily with Tim. In December, in Ohio, it's cold. It's snowing. Tim is living in a burnt out house with no utilities, and he's waiting daily for the sheriff to show up to evict him. He has to hide his motor vehicle every day because the repo man is out looking for it. And when he's not living in the basement of a burned out house, he's living in a pick up truck.
Rod Ammon: And this is all because this man lost his job and his family after this.
Scott Bennett: Absolutely lost everything.
Rod Ammon: Brutal.
Scott Bennett: If you could just only think about living in a burned out house knowing you did nothing wrong and here you lost your children, your wife, your job, your dignity, your freedom. They've done a press release with your photograph all over. Your photograph's on the front page of the paper for setting a house on fire with your children in the house. His friends had done away with him and we made it a point to talk to him every day to assure him that we are listening. We are working. This is not going to happen overnight.
You have to have some... This man didn't know [inaudible 00:34:02] And we convinced him some kind of trust in us to let us do our job.
Rod Ammon: Well, he did the right thing obviously. I before said job well done. That was the understatement of this phone call or conversation. I can imagine how grateful he is for your passion and for the connection with Mark and the work that you guys did. I think we're going to let this one go on. I have a feeling we may call you back and talk to you again after the civil case.
Scott Bennett: Oh, the civil case is making its way through, so we'll see what happens.
Rod Ammon: This seems trivial. I didn't quite expect to have someone tell the story that well, so I appreciate that, Scott. And thank you for that.
Scott Bennett: You're welcome.
Rod Ammon: How did the Investigator of the Year award come about? That might be interesting to share with the IAAI people.
Scott Bennett: Well, interestingly enough, I had no idea. No idea at all. We were involved in, of course, the COVID-19 thing. We canceled our 2020 ITC that was scheduled to happen in Las Vegas. Yeah, Las Vegas. For the first time, we did our annual meeting on a phone call. We had 400 people on the phone call, and we're doing our annual AGM, which is our annual meeting of the IAAI. And during the annual meeting, certain awards were given out, like photograph awards, first, second, third place of accident fire or incendiary fire.
They give out other different awards. And then they get to the Investigator of the Year award. I'm on the phone. I'm actually at the Atlanta Airport. I'm doing my part of the meeting at a Sky Club at the Atlanta Airport, and they get to the Investigator of the Year award and they start reading the background. And as they're reading it, the tears in my eyes bawl up. They read it and then they said Scott Bennett and Mark Shockman. I speak for Mark at this point. Mark was on the phone call as well. He was somewhere in Ohio.
I was speechless. I had no idea. I found out afterwards that Tim had written a very lengthy narrative nominating myself and Mark for that title.
Rod Ammon: Wow. What an honor and coming from the man you helped so much.
Scott Bennett: Oh yeah. I spent my whole life in public sector arresting and convicting arson offenders, and I just pray every day that I never got it wrong, and then you hear a case like this. And when you don't think this day and age that can happen, it did.
Rod Ammon: Yeah. Well, thanks for coming on the podcast to talk us about this case, and fire investigation obviously had a clear and direct impact on this man's life and his family. It's a welcome reminder that careful science-based work in fire investigation can have powerful implications.
Scott Bennett: It sure does.
Rod Ammon: Thanks a lot, Scott. Appreciate your time and congratulations to Mark as well.
Scott Bennett: I will. I'll pass it onto him.
Rod Ammon: Stay safe out there.
Scott Bennett: Thank you. Bye, bye.
Rod Ammon: You're welcome. Now with us to talk about what's new and upcoming at the IAAI is Rick Jones, who is elected president of the association this spring. Thanks for joining us, Rick.
Rick Jones: Thanks, Rod. How are you?
Rod Ammon: I'm doing okay. Hope you had a good weekend. Well, you've had probably the most bizarre beginning to any president of the IAAI. You want to talk about this past couple of months?
Rick Jones: It's been quite challenging. Definitely not what I expected. When you look at going through the board and then becoming the president, you think you had things laid out in your mind on what you're going to do and how you're going to handle things. At some point in time, you think you have it all written. You got the playbook, and then they throw me a virus and canceled the ITC. So it's something I didn't plan for and something I don't have the answers for.
Thank goodness that we have a great board and past presidents can really help me continue to move forward.
Rod Ammon: Why did you run for president?
Rick Jones: I had seen some things that I really wanted to try to bring to the table, some new ideals, and some of them with the off continent locations to try to get more training, more translation, more worldwide classes to our membership. I did set up a nice group of people out of other countries to look at telling me what they think we need or what they could use to better their fire investigations in their country, continent, or whatever. We're waiting for that feedback. We're waiting for them to give us some ideals on where to go forward.
I know Trace and training has done some great things. We now have fundamentals pretty close to be ready to go out in Spanish. I think things are coming along. It's just difficult when you're not able to meet in person and actually see one another working on things, and it's just all done by Zoom now.
Rod Ammon: You've got a pretty unique background. You want to talk a little bit about what you've been doing as far as overseas or going into Latin America?
Rick Jones: Sure. A year and a half ago, I teamed up with Rick Torres, and we opened a company in South America where we actually provide services now in other countries doing fire investigation on the private side. It started a couple of years ago where I was being asked by either attorneys here in the United States or attorneys that knew someone that was based in another country for me to go over and assist in the investigations in those countries. And I would pull a lot of my resources from the IAAI membership.
I would look into the roster. Based on people in those countries, I would team up with those people in that country and have someone there to assist me with the language and with getting around and the cultures and so forth. And it just got to be a bigger and bigger need, so I thought that it would be a good idea to start a company and Rick Torres would be one of the people I wanted to partner with. It's growing leaps and bounds. It's doing very well. Of course, we're having challenges right now with COVID.
It's very difficult for me to get down there and assist them in any of the other countries. We've had difficulties this year getting into Canada. It's challenging. But as all new businesses, we'll just have to grow with the times and see what we can do.
Rod Ammon: You struck on another benefit of being a member of the IAAI that I think is good for us to remember to talk about, being able to have that database of around 10,000 people around the world that you can reach out to and communicate with because you're a member and, well, especially when you're the president. I was going to ask you a little bit about COVID-19 and the way that's affected some things with the IAAI and how we're evolving with that. What have you seen? As you said, there's a lot of communication going on, but there's also some things that IAAI is doing.
Rick Jones: One of the biggest ones is this week we've... I think today I'm supposed to be in Georgia actually at a conference there. Unfortunately, it was canceled last week. We've seen a lot of the state chapters lose their yearly training because they're not able to put the people together in one location without the social distancing or those issues. We're looking at are we going to be able to put people into the conference rooms without having everybody six feet apart. Is everyone's going to need to wear masks?
And it's difficult to figure that out when we're still several months out and how we're going to handle it. But it's being looked at. It's being thought about. The casino that we're working with is really trying to get ahead of it and make sure that we're going to have enough room and have enough space to be able to abide with whatever the law is at that time.
Rod Ammon: Yeah. That's something that seems to be changing as we go along. I've seen some things that you've done that are pretty responsive pretty quick. You want to talk a little bit about a couple of the training pieces that have been held online? Programs?
Rick Jones: Sure. Trace and training was able to jump on that really quick and get some online training with Zoom to our membership. I think that's going on the third Thursday of every month. I know I have one in September to do. I think I'm doing the evidence chapter in K9 teams out of 921. It's been going well. Randy Watson was the first chair of 921. It was the first one that was held, and I think it went very, very well. I think we had over 300 people signed up and attended that first training, and then there's been numerous that used it after it was archived or placed on our site.
Rod Ammon: Yeah, that was really good news when I heard how many people had gone into that. I think it was even 400 or more. That's great news and obviously Randy's always good with those kind of presentations and the importance of NFPA is important. Just another good time to pitch something and get you a little bit of feedback. That Zoom and what TNE is doing and what we're doing on CFI Trainer is going to be integrated into CFI Trainer so that when people come in and want to take a look at something you're doing in training and something that's going on at CFI Trainer, it'll have one hub.
So they'll just come in, they'll click on it, they'll register for it, pay for it. Everything that they're going to do for their training will be able to come through and all be integrated into their membership and their training. Hopefully down the road we'll get all the transcripts and everything put together. That's pretty good stuff for what I've seen out there. Are there other initiatives you want to talk about that you feel are important coming into this year?
Rick Jones: I'd love to see that the local chapters be able to get up and running to get some of these classes out, get some of their local training going. I know we have a big one coming up in California. The CCIA Conference is coming. Hopefully that goes through. I know myself and Randy Watson and I think Bob Toth are both teaching there if the conference actually goes. I think Tom is actually looking at... Even if the in person doesn't happen, we're going to try to do something by one of these online websites, more likely like Zoom, to where you would still be able to attend the class just virtually.
Rod Ammon: Well, I know you guys will try your best to do whatever works. And from what I've seen with the Zoom, that'll be successful too. I want to give you a chance to pitch the IAAI. There's a lot of people on CFI Trainer who have not become members yet. Do you have a message for them?
Rick Jones: As important as you think it is that you can get the training from CFI Trainer is just as important to support the international. We need that international to continue to grow so that we can continue to get these grants, continue to provide that type of training. And we want to be able to do that in multiple languages. We want to be able to do that for everyone, but it takes membership. It takes growth. It takes grants. It takes people pulling together sponsors to be able to make all this happen.
We're just going to have to keep getting the word out that we are a great organization that offers the fire investigation community a lot of benefits.
Rod Ammon: You put it in a different way than a lot of people often to. A lot of people often say, "We need this..." It's all about membership benefits, but one of the great benefits that I think you're talking about which I think is important to speak of again is the membership that someone has to IAAI really supports the entire fire investigation community. It's not much money. I mean, it's what? It's a hundred some dollars to join?
Rick Jones: Yes.
Rod Ammon: Yeah. So for what you get out of that and the benefit to the whole fire investigation community and then the other way, the benefit, I mean, God, there are, what, 10, 20, 30% discounts on most of the training that are out there. So if you sign up for one or two things in a year, you're pretty much paying for your membership if I'm not mistaken.
Rick Jones: Absolutely. We're looking at some of that in the future to see if we can offer a free class or multiple classes to our membership because you are a member. There's some great ideals going around the training committee, and we're just going to see what the future can hold. And of course, it all costs a dollar. It takes money to run an organization like this, and we have to be able to find those dollars. Membership is one of the best ways to do it, but you also look at sponsors, at grants, and all of these other ways of trying to grow and bring more members in and show them the benefits.
I think there's some great benefits right now. We have an unbelievable magazine that offers some great insight on new techniques, a new way of doing things. We have an insurance policy for our investigators. We have the list that I've continued to go to to show us our members, our CFIs, and any other certifications that the group has. You'll be able to look at that through your membership portal. So there's a lot of things to offer there to a new member.
Rod Ammon: Yeah. That database is a whole lot more powerful I think than people realize. Once you're a member and you start signing in there and you see all these people that are even close by that you've never met or in any place that you wanted to work, that's incredibly valuable. Well, that network is a big deal. Anything else that I'm missing that you wanted to talk about?
Rick Jones: We're still hoping to have our midyear this year. Unfortunately, I had made the decision to go ahead and hold it by Zoom in November. Of course, people are invited to attend that by Zoom as well. They can listen in. They can have reports. They can get on the agenda to be able to report something to the board. Just maybe you need to do that ahead of time.
Rod Ammon: Right.
Rick Jones: And if anyone wants to do that, they can reach out and contact me, of course, and I can help them through that process. Stay involved. Stay in training. Take the opportunity right now. If you're quarantined for 14 days, take that opportunity to go on CFI Trainer and try to get some training.
Rod Ammon: Sounds good. Thanks a lot for your time today, Rick.
Rick Jones: Thank you.
Rod Ammon: All right. We'll talk to you soon.
Rick Jones: All right. Bye, bye.
Rod Ammon: Bye. There's a lot going on and some big things are coming, and now for some news. You probably noticed that CFITrainer.Net has a new look. This overhaul has been in the works for a long time, and we're pretty excited to roll it out this spring. The new design is responsive, which means it dynamically resizes the pages and arranges the content to fit the device you are using. You'll find it much easier to use on your phone or tablet, and the modules are optimized for delivery to those devices.
You can now filter the list of modules by topic, IAAI credential requirement, multi program certificate, NFPA 1033 JPR, and NFPA 1033 1.3.7 topic. It's pretty handy since we have 71 modules and counting. Now you can more readily find exactly what fits your training needs or professional development plan. We've even made some improvements to the podcast page, so you can more easily subscribe, access the back catalog of episodes, and view the episode transcripts. You can also share the podcast with some of your friends.
Let us know what you think about the podcast using the feedback form on the podcast page. Lastly, on behalf of the CFITrainer.Net team, I want to thank you for being here. We've been getting incredible support on the podcast and thousands of you are tuning in every month. We read all your feedback and use it to craft episode content. So please continue to communicate with us so we can better serve the needs of the profession and bring you episodes that address your needs.
And if you enjoy the podcast and find it valuable, again, please share it with a colleague or post it to your social media so we can continue to grow this community. We've got the share button on the podcast page to help you do this. This podcast and CFITrainer.Net are made possible by funding from The Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program administered by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There's also support from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and voluntary online donations from CFITrainer.Net users and podcast listeners. Thanks for joining us today on the podcast. Again, stay safe. We'll see you next time. For the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net, I'm Rod Ammon.
IAAI web site
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.
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.
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 program explains the basic principles of how electric and hybrid vehicles are designed and work, including major systems and typical components.
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 provides introductory information on the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard – 29 CFR 1910.120.
This module teaches first responders, including fire, police and EMS, how to make critical observations.
The program examines the importance of assessing the impact of ventilation on a fire.
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 demonstrates the investigative potential of information stored on electronic devices.
This module explains the relationship between NFPA 1033 and NFPA 921
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.
The basics of the scientific method are deceptively simple: observe, hypothesize, test, and conclude.
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.
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.