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.
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The IAAI Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide.
Rod Ammon: Welcome to the CFITrainer.Net podcast. Today, our featured interview welcomes Doug Byron. He's the president and senior forensic chemist at FAST, Forensic and Scientific Testing. Thanks for being with us, Doug.
Doug Byron: Thanks, Rod. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Rod Ammon: We all appreciate your time. All right, Doug, with fats and oils, probably not the first potential fire cause that investigators consider when formulating and testing hypothesis. The first place our minds go to when thinking about fats and oils is spontaneous combustion. Can you give us a little orientation? What's the role of fats and oils in fire ignition, and what are the ways in which fats and oils start fires?
Doug Byron: Yes, the fats and oils and vegetable oils, they are comprised of triglycerides. That's a big word. It's something that's used in health in a bunch of different ways, but it's still fats and oils. The same fats and oils, the similar fats and oils, used in veggie oils. What happens in the configuration of the oils is we have what we call double bonds and these double bonds in these oils would break, and when they break they produce heat. In this veggie oils, we call them, you can have double bonds in three different areas, or two different areas, or one, we call that unsaturation. When these unsaturated fats and veggie oils, we have a potential for what we call self-heating. When these bonds break it produces heat, so if we have a proper configuration of say oil onto cotton rags, and it's exposed to air, then these bonds can break and heat produced.
Now there's a neat little mechanism in the way these things can work. When these bonds and these oils are exposed to air and cotton rags, it's the insulating property of the rags will actually generate heat and insulate it. If the heat generated is greater than heat dissipated, we have what we call an exothermic reaction, which means heat's being produced and now it's not being able to escape. It keeps increasing further and further until what we have a thermal runaway. With the thermal runaway will eventually hit an auto ignition temperature of the material, but we go way past that. That's when we have smoke, we have other indicators, horrible acrid odors, and then eventually 700, 800 degrees to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, we can have an open flame ignition. That's just a nutshell of basically how the spontaneous combustion and self-heating will work in rags, for instance in a dryer fire.
Rod Ammon: So, for the less experienced investigators, I'm thinking about rags that were left that had linseed oil, for instance, sitting in the back of the garage. Could you give an example of a fire case where something like that happened?
Doug Byron: Absolutely. Linseed oil is a drying oil and with a drying oil, we will use rags for cleaning and clean up. We'll use the rags to spread the oil. And the oil is wet, so it's going to dry. Normally people just put them in a pile, a box, and just stack them up, and sometimes the phone will ring, we could get distracted, and these rags will just sit there. And over a period of time, they will start to smoke. It smells like recorded statements of tortillas, burning tortillas, over time, and what goes from a pleasant smell to an acrid smell, tons of smoke. And with this smoke, we have this self-heating reaction, which will eventually can lead to open flame ignition. And then with that, we can extend that to actually a fire in your garage.
Rod Ammon: All right. How volatile are these fats and oils and do they survive a fire?
Doug Byron: These fats and oils can survive a fire. Now don't forget, these are a little bit different because these are the reactive materials, such as gasoline and normal fire debris analysis in which the gasoline can evaporate and with our data we can see that it's evaporated. Same thing with these oils. We know what these oils look like fresh, the volatility of the oils, and since they are the reacting material, they will degrade. And with degradation over time, we can then see the double bonds break and then they become more saturated. We can see that.
If you look at these oils, they're thick, they're heavy, you'd think they would stand time and heat better than ignitable liquids. And they do, for the most part. But say it was a linseed oil with solvent, for instance, a stain, ignitable liquid would be more resilient than the stain itself, because the reactive material would be the stain and it degrades over time. Whereas ignitable liquid would seek the lowest level and it can get into the wood. That's why we do ignitable liquid testing and fatty acid testing at the same time to determine both are present. But they are pretty resilient for the most part, fatty acids are, and we can find those in testing as well.
Rod Ammon: With your expertise, I figure you'd get a lot of calls from the scene, or after an investigation, or during an investigation I should say. How does a fire investigator know when they should consider fats and oils as a potential fire cause and give you a call?
Doug Byron: We get a lot of the calls. Basically, a fire investigator will go through the fire scene and see a potential area of origin, and then they'll go through their elimination of ignition sources. With the scene evaluation, normally you're going to have an isolated fire with the spontaneous combustion fire. It's isolated, maybe just a small ring, maybe from a laundry basket, for instance, and nothing else is burned. And they can say, well, what happened here? We don't have electrical, we don't have access to the structure, and then you can start thinking about asking in the interview, where the people were, what timeframe are we looking? Was there any other heavy smoke damage? And then at that point, you want to consider a self-heating fire, or if you have a dryer and people who deal with massage oils or their restaurants or cooking environment or painters.
Anytime you have those key factors, you may want to consider looking into a self-heating or spontaneous combustion reaction. And then you look for some indicators of these reactions, such as the isolated fire, heavy smoke, acrid odors. And the biggest thing is a timeframe. Do you have an extended timeframe, where it's an open flame ignition of common combustibles can extend pretty rapidly, 20 minutes, where these reactions can go up to 80 hours in documented cases. If you have a large timeframe, you may want to look into a spontaneous combustion fire.
Rod Ammon: 80 hours. Help me out there.
Doug Byron: Up to 80 hours, yeah.
Rod Ammon: Just give me a quick, if I was looking into the room, how would I know that that happened? What would it seem like during that 80 hours while that was happening?
Doug Byron: During that 80 hours, the initial say 72-75 hours. You wouldn't know anything. Every day, just common, nothing, just typical. What you'll start noticing before that... If you were to see it before the fire, you maybe start smelling as if someone's cooking, deep frying maybe fish, tortillas, or something of that nature, you can start smelling it. But it doesn't smell that bad. It'll produce white smoke. Once it starts reacting, it gets close to the 80 hours, give them about three or four hours. Hours before the event, it'll start smoking and then your eyes can start watering. And then at that point you can get an open flame.
Now after the fire, say the fire investigator comes in and sees this, it's either a pile that's just a circular, burnt material. And normally rags is the medium that these are in, and you'll just see burnt rags and heavy smoke damaging that's if it doesn't get to a bookshelf and start the entire structure on fire.
Rod Ammon: I was wondering just because from a witness perspective, doesn't sound like there'd be a whole lot of time where somebody could... Except for maybe, hey, I smelled cooking. It sounds like by the time it gets acrid, I think as you described it, we're getting down to the last before ignition.
Doug Byron: Yes. The timeframe from smelling really pleasant odors, it's normally going to be after hours. Dark, usually. Normally these are unwitnessed at night. Late fire. You can't see the white smoke and people that are neighbors who are witnessing these, it goes unwitnessed because they say, I thought someone was cooking, for instance. We don't see the smoke and then it just goes on and on and they just turn a fan on. They ignore it. And then they don't think it's what they smelled or witnessed because the fire can be three to four hours later.
Rod Ammon: Interesting. How can the fire investigator test their hypothesis that the fat or oil was the fire cause?
Doug Byron: Well, that's an interesting question that can be tested and it can be tested based off that the data collected at the scene and by the material that's present, the work being done, and some of the interviews. You normally can get some product comparisons of the oils and say, hey, this has a warning label on the can. What can we do? It says warn of spontaneous combustion. Or it can be tested, in which, investigator will do the deductive and inductive reasoning following 921 and either have a lab like us do a physical test on it, or they can put some oil on a rag and they can try it out and see that this can actually happen.
We can do the physical test, in which you get the timeframe when they started working, and then when the time of fire and to work between that, and see if it's possible in the timeframe that this material being used in the work being done can produce a fire in that timeframe. You can test out positive and then you can do the chemical test to verify that the oil is in fact capable of self-heating.
Rod Ammon: So with evidence collection analysis, what testing is available for fats and oils and what will the results tell the investigator?
Doug Byron: The fats and oil test actually is an ASTM method. I believe it's 2881, in which the fire debris that's collected, such as the rags or the wood under the pile, or say something similar nearby, the fire analysts can use the regular fire debris test methods for ignitable liquids, and then using the same type of equipment without having to get new equipment or do something different, we can actually do a different extraction technique. And then with the same fire debris column, we can actually run the fatty acid under the ASTM protocols, and then see what one saturated, fatty acids or fats and oils are present, which would dictate the tendency it has to self-heat. And then we can take the forensic approach and see if it's degraded and say, saturated or mono unsaturated, one double bond, then we can deduce that that oil, had a higher tendency or more double bonds, before the fire.
Those tests can be done just with the request, or usually when we see something come in from a dryer or rags from a porch, we'll talk to the investigator and ask if there's a scenario, if there's anything going on in which they need a different test run to better supply them with data and results, that would be more beneficial to the case if they suspect self-heating.
Rod Ammon: All right. A lot of times that I've spoken to people at the lab, they have desires or wishes of the fire investigators. What are the kinds of things that you'd like them, or would make their evidence collection better?
Doug Byron: What normally happens, I recommend, is they pick up the phone and call and go through it with their laboratory what they have, and then you can see if there's oily substance on your glove, anything oily, and they'll tell me, they'll describe what they have. Because each fire scene is always different. Sometimes you just have powder debris. Sometimes you have greasy debris. Sometimes you still have towels available or rags. And I just tell them to look around the scene, see if there's rags that are there, that say the painters may have missed, or just basically anything that could support a self-heating reaction or spontaneous combustion, so we can find out and give them the best opportunity to collect data. And then they can use that for their hypothesis or their conclusions. Then we can go from there.
Rod Ammon: Once they've been told, or once you've had that conversation on the phone, you want to give some hints of that can help them with properly collecting and preserving fat and oil samples?
Doug Byron: Yes. Try to get samples that aren't ash and debris. Try to get rags that are still not totally burned and more of the comparison oil. If we know what, say it was a cooking oil, it was a linseed oil, or a drying oil, or Sherwin-Williams, or Valspar. If we can have comparison oils that helps. But the debris itself, normally collected debris just as you would if you were looking for ignitable liquids, get something to absorb it. The towels, for instance, if they're white, they're partially burned is better. And then you can get some of the burnt stuff, which we know if it's totally consumed and falling apart in your hands is probably going to be negative, but it still tells a story. The debris should match, and the data hopefully will match, the scene itself.
Rod Ammon: I'm guessing the comparison oils, or whatever it is that you're looking for, very often are in the garage or down in the basement?
Doug Byron: It can be, and it can be that it's on an invoice, in which you go to the ACE Hardware and buy Minwax, and once you get mahogany Minwax stain, then we can purchase it at that point. Or it can be obtained, procured, some way, but yeah, normally it's going be in the garage. It could be from the painters or whatever skillset been there, you normally can have some. Or they actually have the cans that have been burned and crushed due to fire that can have some residue in the cans and the labels would be burned off, but we can just test the liquid still and see if it has to do with what's in the debris, which goes into other cases of subrogation in which the painters could be there, the stainers doing something else, and people saying that's not our oil, those aren't our rags, and so you can basically just try to take, if it's a can and it has something in it, you just try to take that. Or a little bit of it into a glass jar and just run them and compare them to the debris.
Rod Ammon: Might be a crazy question, but who knows, I'm wondering, have you ever been involved in a fire that turned out to be intentionally set that involved oils?
Doug Byron: Intentionally set. Allegedly. A couple of cases. These reactions are very difficult to prove intent when in fact, if the work being done is to use this material and if the time delayed to light, really, because it may or may not go to full open flame or combustion, due to many factors, such as reactive depletion of the oil, there's not enough oil, or not enough access to air, or something disrupts it and so it might not work. It's a very suspect, very difficult reaction, to plan and to predict for folks if you rarely do it, but there have been a couple scenarios where it was alleged that it was in use for intentional fires.
Rod Ammon: All right. Well, I just felt like be good to ask. Always creativity going on out there. Anything I'm missing that we're missing here, as far as things that we should communicate out to the fire investigator?
Doug Byron: Those are the basics. There's a few books out there. A couple chapters. Chapter 14 of the Fire Debris Analysis book by Stauffer, 2008. It has a pretty good section to describe these fats and oils. I just finished chapter four of the Forensic Analysis of Fire Debris and Explosives. It's by Springer Publishers, and it goes through more in depth what we described. It's written for layman's, really, for just everyday people just not get caught up in chemistry, but to understand how these every day oils can in fact cause fires. And you can include that or exclude that in the investigators hypothesis based off of the indicators we've mentioned. It basically just gives a thorough slower version of what we discussed.
Rod Ammon: I'm trying often, and this is something I didn't talk to you about when we chatted a little bit before, but I'm often thinking about case studies or a situation that you can share, where there was some interesting results tied to our conversation. Anything about a specific case without giving away identity?
Doug Byron: There's a bunch of really neat cases, some resulting in bad things happening. Dryer fires are notorious. Probably the most common today. For instance, there was a lab inspection and going through trying to include or exclude the dryer was it a drum fire, so we can suspect self-heating or spontaneous combustion, a lint fire, bearing failure, heating element. They're going through that and called me in and looking through the debris inside the drum. It's just very hard debris. Get down to the bottom and then there's rags and you can smell the telltale smell of the self-heating fire, and then there's still some oily rags and then they were able to determine that the dryer was off at the time of the fire. The door was closed and then opened and was not affected. Basically, this was a localized fire that extended in the laundry room.
But that scenario, you can take that same scenario throughout every state in the country and it can extend and then cause bodily harm and death, resulting in death these reactions. But normally they go unnoticed and a lot of the cases, in the dryer cases, that dryer may sit there for inspection for a year or two, or three, and by that point, we don't have much of the evidence left, the volatile organic oils have oxidized and solidified, and we don't have anything left. Negative sample.
That's an example of testing the debris as soon as you can as possible, because once you get attorneys and insurance companies involved they want to have everybody available for inspection.
Some of the other higher profile cases was in Savannah with the high profile food manufacturer making fish sticks. They were building a house and it was spontaneous combustion was far from basically being relevant. I had gas landed on the front of the house and had the painters just showed up. They hadn't even done any work. And they were saying it's a spontaneous combustion fire. But the neat thing about these fires is they're unwitnessed, but video cameras and CCTV plays a critical role in this particular fire in which then the Atlanta Gas Light, which is a gas company, producing gas and the lanterns on the front of the house, were they involved?
What we had a video from the Marina facing the house, and then in flashover we can see that the painter’s equipment and material inside the house. We basically concluded with all the testing that self-heating firing and spontaneous combustion was not the cause of the fire. So, it can go both ways.
There's other interesting cases of extension from spontaneous combustion fires that resulted in death of unsuspecting people just from extension and as the fire progressed, people sleeping, because it does happen late at night, usually as an unwitnessed fire.
Rod Ammon: Well, I hope more and more people are getting educated to how they happen.
Doug Byron: Well, I've been actively pursuing the spontaneous combustion for 20 years and there were many, many fire chiefs and some of the older ones, they basically said, this event didn't occur. And as we see the time goes on, now we have written standards for testing fire debris for fatty acids. So now it's become recognized as a problem with dryers and staining and painters and some of the other things. So now we can put those indicators and science and chemistry and physical tests together to put both science, which is normally the lab, they refer to them as technicians, I refer to as a scientist, and we can take that data from us, put it with the fire investigator and see if that fits the hypothesis or doesn't fit the hypothesis, either way. But we're more integral to the investigation, which is more fun to me as an analyst than it is just to sit in a lab.
Rod Ammon: Well, speaking of fun, it sounds like you enjoy teaching. I thought maybe I would give you an opportunity to talk about some of the training that you do.
Doug Byron: Yes, I do like doing that. I do get excited and passionate about it, because it is interesting and fun. I go have these classes put together. It's normally a full day. What I like to do is talk about how fiber analysis and some of these stains and oil work together. We can look and see the mineral spirits, or MPD, in the product and the stain work together in the new adaptions of decrease in volatile organics and yet still having a stain.
What I like to do is teach about that, in the meantime, on breaks, I go out and set up scenarios and set up a demonstration of self-heating reactions and spontaneous combustion. And then in the afternoon it has enough time to react. And then sometimes I'll put potting soil out there, and then we'll let the investigators go and witness the odors, witness the smoke, and then see how much smoke, and they can see for themselves if they have a spontaneous combustion or suspect a spontaneous combustion fire, they would have witnessed one. And then they could think about their experience with the class and then use that on site and on their scene and to ask questions and to hear the answers that they may indicate that it was a self-heating fire.
I do like doing that and then we can let them see the temperatures and some of the other thermal couples. We can see that it not only reaches auto ignition temperature of the cotton rag, it exceeds it sometimes two and three times that temperature. Auto ignition does not equal spontaneous combustion or self-heating fires.
Rod Ammon: It continues to amaze me. I know a lot of people who are involved in fire investigation and they talk about this like. "Oh, yeah, it happens all the time." And it's still amazing. When I'm out there working on something in the garage and I start walking to the back of the garage with the rag and I'm like, no, you can't do that. Don't leave that hanging out there.
Doug Byron: It's interesting with fats and oils, don't mistake the oils to being petroleum oil, which is motor oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid. Those have already oxidized and won't self-heat, or are not suspect to it. But there are many videos that I have of restaurant fires in which you just look at a simple rag with corn oil or peanut oil, soybean oil, or one of the cooking oils and grilling oils, and you wouldn't suspect that rag, or two or three of those, after they come out of the laundry room in a restaurant, you fold them, put them on a shelf and walk away. Everybody's happy. 11:00, 12:00 at night, and the closed circuit television at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning sees white smoke drifting by.
There's lots of videos of those two. And then hopefully it doesn't extend past the rack from when they dried the towels, but it happens a lot. Most of the time, thank goodness, it doesn't extend and burn the structures down, but not only do they, but they will, and it can cause millions of dollars of damage, including death.
Rod Ammon: Well, Doug, I appreciate you coming on the podcast with us today to highlight this. We typically don't get a lot of attention towards this fats and oils topic. I know Bobby Schaal had said to me, "You should talk to Doug. This should be a conversation you guys should have to share with everybody."
Doug Byron: Thanks, Rod. Thanks for having me.
Rod Ammon: All right. Be well, Doug. For guidance on evidence collection, we have a link on this podcast page to the IAAI's evidence collection guide.
COVID-19 continues to be a primary concern for the fire service and law enforcement. Fire investigators should already be well versed in the use of PPE to mitigate exposures to carcinogens at the fire scene. But the biological nature of COVID-19 transmission should cause investigators to reexamine their sanitation and personal protection practices.
Some things to think about include:
• Sanitizing skin and disinfecting tools before, during, and after scene examination and interpersonal contact.
• Refraining from sharing tools with others.
• Wearing gloves throughout the investigation, particularly when touching high touch surfaces at the scene.
• Assessing the respiratory and eye protection you select for its ability to prevent breathing in or absorbing respiratory droplets without sacrificing mitigation of other airborne particles found at fire scenes.
• Wearing breathing protection when in contact with other emergency responders and the public.
• Providing masks to persons you speak with or interview who do not have them.
• Practicing social distancing when speaking with other professionals at the scene or interviewing witnesses.
• Considering conducting interpersonal contact, including interviews, in exterior locations rather than inside buildings.
• And disinfecting your vehicle regularly after fire scene examinations and interpersonal contact.
Resources are available from the IAFC to assess the impact of COVID-19 on various aspects of the provision of emergency services, including communication and contact with the public, PPE, mass gatherings, and civil unrest.
You can now support the IAAI Foundation through AmazonSmile. Through this program, you can designate the IAAI Foundation as beneficiary of a donation by Amazon of 1.5% of your purchases that you make at smile.amazon.com. To designate the IAAI Foundation as your AmazonSmile beneficiary, go to smile.amazon.com/ch/26-3805346. Or I think when you go to smile.amazon.com and it asks you to fill that out, you can search out the IAAI Foundation. I'm pretty sure that's what I did.
Once you complete this designation, you do your Amazon shopping from the smile.amazon.com URL and 1.5% of your purchases will be donated to the IAAI Foundation.
Just to note, we'll look forward to speaking with President Rick Jones next month and find out more about his agenda for the rest of this year and beyond.
This podcast and CFITrainer.Net are made possible by funding from a fire prevention and safety grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program administered by FEMA and the US Department of Homeland Security. Support is also provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and voluntary online donations from CFITrainer.Net users and podcast listeners like you.
Thanks for joining us today on the podcast, stay safe. We'll see you next time. Let somebody know about the podcast and give us your feedback if you can, on the feedback form at the end of the page.
Once again, be safe out there. For the IAAI 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.
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 program presents critical safety information for how to interact with electric and hybrid vehicles.
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 explains what lithium-ion batteries are, how they are constructed, where they are used, safety concerns, and how they can cause fires and explosions.
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.