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: And welcome to this podcast for the International Association of Arson Investigators. Today, we’re going to have a brief interview with investigator of the year, Jeff Pride. Jeff just recently won investigator of the year at the ITC conference at the Rio in Las Vegas. Well, the first thing I guess we should do is just thank Jeff for being with us, and Jeff, why don’t you just tell us the story.
JEFF PRIDE: I’m assigned as an arson investigator in Central and Southern Illinois with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office. In late 2008, I began a series of fire investigations in Cumberland County, Illinois. Throughout the course of these investigations, it was proven to be that most of the fires were determined to be incendiary or intentionally-set fires. The fires originally started out with old barns, vacant houses of that nature, and then led to vacant and some occupied houses within residential neighborhoods of Cumberland County.
During the course of these investigations, I was a part of approximately 23 cases, which were determined to be incendiary fires. During the course of the investigation, I was able to put together some information and evidence that led me to two possible suspects. Those suspects just happened to be members of a volunteer fire department in Cumberland County. Throughout the investigations, I conducted several interviews with these individuals along with other witnesses, but was never really able to get enough information to present a case to the state’s attorney for prosecution. In late 2012 and into early 2013, we had some breaks in the case where we obtained warrants for GPS tracking devices to be put on our suspects’ vehicles, also some video surveillance equipment that was placed in certain locations around Greenup, Cumberland County, and by use of those devices, we were able to collect further evidence to bring our two suspects back in for additional interviews.
Our primary suspect who was a volunteer fireman in Cumberland County initially confessed to a couple of the fires, and throughout the course of further interviews, ended up confessing to a total of 26 incendiary fires that he was a part of. Also, in his confessions, he implicated his partner as being part of those intentionally-set fires as well. As a result of that, we took both suspects to prosecution. Charges were filed. A total of 69 counts were filed against these two individuals. Since then, the cases have concluded in late December of this last year, 2013, and the result of the investigation was that the primary suspect received a total of 22 years imprisonment, and the secondary suspect received a total of eight years imprisonment for these various fires that they had confessed to.
ROD AMMON: Congratulations on a successful prospection, Jeff. So, talk a little bit about the frustrations with a case like this. What are some of the things you’ve learned?
JEFF PRIDE: Well, the biggest frustration of all was I really suspected these two individuals as being involved early on, but being able to collect enough information and evidence to move the case forward for prosecution was difficult in the beginning. There were also some hurdles dealing with other agencies, trying to coordinate information between agencies, trying to make sure information stayed classified throughout the course of the investigation. Once we were able to coordinate between all the agencies involved, we were able to move forward, and as I mentioned previously, collect enough information to present to the state’s attorney for prosecution.
ROD AMMON: It seems like it’s always a challenge to know how to handle the flow of information. Can you tell us how you handled things with this investigation? It went on for a long time.
JEFF PRIDE: One of the biggest lessons that I learned is that, if coordinated in the proper manner, allowing other agencies and other people to assist you, branching out for help basically from other people and other investigators and other agencies where we could come together as one collaboration and put a case together that was solid that we could present to the state’s attorney.
ROD AMMON: Was there a task force?
JEFF PRIDE: The task force was our - not really present in the areas where I work, so most of the time, I’m on my own as far as investigations go. Sometimes I can call in other investigators from my agency for assistance. I had one particular investigator from my agency that I called on a regular basis and discussed these cases with, and it’s - this particular investigator was not close to me distance wise, but was always a phone call away, and I discussed the cases with him. He is an investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office as well. His name is Kenny Arnold, and we discussed these cases at great length. So, just being able to share information and ask questions with other investigators was a great benefit in these cases.
ROD AMMON: We communicate with an audience that covers many types of cities and states. Even though you didn’t have a task force, could you talk about your unique situation, and what can you share with us that was unusual about this case?
JEFF PRIDE: As I mentioned, there are not a lot of investigation task forces in my area, but one of the biggest lessons that I learned throughout this whole thing is when you need help, make sure you ask for it. Don’t assume that because you play a certain role or you’re responsible for a certain role that you cannot ask for assistance. There are many other agencies out there that offer different types of assistance. For example, the Illinois State Police was greatly involved in these investigations beginning in late 2012 and into 2013.
Illinois State Police Special Agent Tim Brown was assigned to the case, who I worked with closely, and he provided great assistance in the interview phase of the investigation. So, one of the biggest lessons that I learned was you could be the best investigator in the world, but there’s always someone that can shed something new, can always teach you something that you possibly didn’t know. So, the more eyes that are involved and the more agencies that are involved and professionals that are involved, there’s always an aspect that can be added to your investigation.
ROD AMMON: This was a pretty tough case. What kept you going, Jeff?
JEFF PRIDE: A big part of my motivation push came from other investigators. The investigator that I mentioned earlier, Kenny Arnold, was someone I was in constant contact over the course of this entire investigation, other investigators telling you you’re doing a good job; keep going; you need to do this or you need to do that. Also, having a state’s attorney or prosecutor who is willing to get involved in your investigation, not just from a prosecutorial standpoint, but from a citizen who lives in that county, and when Jonathan Braden, the state’s attorney in this county, got elected and became involved with these cases, he was there.
He was - he came out at night. He was watching my investigations, asking questions, and when you see that kind of support from the state’s attorney and from other investigators, people are relying on you to provide a service. They’re relying on you to figure out what is going on with these situations in their hometown. They’re relying on you to try to solve this particular problem. So, that’s kind of the motivation that kind of kept me going, that I knew I was close and it was just a matter of if I can just get that one last piece of information or one last piece of evidence, I think I can push it over the top, and it was just a matter of the small pieces here and there falling into place until it finally just took hold.
ROD AMMON: Anything that you’d like to add?
JEFF PRIDE: The biggest thing is throughout the course of this, I received great cooperation from my agency, the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, from my division manager, Chris Valentine, so I’m very grateful to them.
ROD AMMON: Well, thanks very much and congratulations again on becoming the IAAI investigator of the year. For the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net, 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.