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.
Welcome to IAAI’s March 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This month, our podcast features an advance look at some of the fascinating courses that will be taught at IAAI’s 2011 Annual Training Conference. ATC 2011 takes place May 1-6 in Las Vegas, NV. IAAI is bringing together many of the top instructors in fire investigation, giving the membership an unprecedented opportunity to hone their skills in a diverse range of topics. Courses offered include Changes to NFPA 921, Investigating Gas-Related Fires, Debunking the Myth that Low Voltage Assemblies Cannot Cause Fires, Electronic Evidence, New Photography Techniques, Using the Scientific Method, Interrogation, and the lessons learned from the Sofa Super Store Fire in Charleston, SC.
Earlier today, I spoke with a few of the instructors who will be presenting at ATC 2011. They gave us a little bit of a preview to their courses. We’ll start out with Barry Grimm.
BARRY GRIMM: I’m at ATC this year to discuss - actually I’m working as a practitioner with a chemist by the name of Cherie Wells, a talented young lady who has been a chemist for quite a number of years, and what we’re trying to do is critical thinking for some forensics that we think are many times forgotten by investigators. Traditional ignitable liquids are sometimes the only thing that we think we may be able to recover and it’s kind of our mind set to say, no, let’s really take a look at this total picture, and as many of us know, you’re there on your own, you know? I mean, you are everything when you work fire scenes. You usually don’t get a CSI, so you have got to capture whatever evidence is there, and that’s kind of what we’re talking about.
You know, think outside the box a little bit - a little bit of critical thinking skills to say you know what? There is - I’m far enough here away from the point of origin, that I have relevance to the particular item, I know it was handled. There’s - you know, Dave and I were talking this morning. A guy uses a knife and stabs somebody, uses the same knife to open the little crummy wooden jewelry box that is locked. So he cuts himself while he’s doing that. What’s our pecking order here? I’ve got - he throws the knife down, he’s doing a crime concealment fire. I want the knife. Is the knife that opened the box? Is it further the knife - does the blood on it belong to the victim or does the blood belong to the defendant? Are there prints on the blade of the knife? Do I first put it in a super glue tank or am I going to destroy serology?
This is why I like the idea of Cherie and I kind of working together. You’ve got a practitioner and a professional. You’ve got a lab person. Our crux is going to be you’ve got to embrace science and you’ve got to know - even if you only know a chemist, she’s going to tell you, you know what - it’s a little bit out of my ballpark because I like stuff always to be in a one gallon container, but I am going to transfer you to my buddy in serology and just ask him that question. Go to your lab, take a tour of it. Don’t be a stranger, don’t let those faces be just a voice on the phone. Put a face to the call and you’ll be doing yourself a big justice and your lab will just be like, man, this guy is really on track here and you won’t be sending them - spinning their wheels kind of stuff.
Q: What’s interesting or surprising?
BARRY GRIMM: Well I think we’re going to be talking not only about traditional evidence in ignitable liquids and its escape path and areas that it may very well be hidden in where we may have - rather than cursing the lab it may be a poor sampling technique, but we’re going to talk about where DNA may have survivability and how fragile it is to heat, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not on your scene. And the scene, to many fire investigators, just narrows itself down only to the area of origin. But it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t survivability of evidence to include fingerprints, trace evidence, hair, fibers, transfers, mechanical fits, fracture marks, fluids - body fluids. So we’re going to try in a short period of time to touch and give - and give investigators an idea to say you know what, maybe if I step back I could see the forest without the trees being in the way. So this is something that Cherie and I are going to try and get across to our audience at ATC.
JIM ALLEN: This is Jim Allen, and Joe Konefal and myself are teaching a one week course on the fundamentals of fire investigation. Both of us have prior law enforcement experience - mine with a Sheriff’s office for approximately ten years and Joe’s with a DPS agency for approximately ten years. This course covers all of the new and problematic issues relating to fire investigation because we deal with the new problematic issues found in both NFPA 1033 as well as the brand new 921.
Q: So what’s interesting or surprising for the attendees this year during your course?
JIM ALLEN: Obviously the major change is the issues of last year’s 1033, which lay out a mandated series of classes that every investigator must have before they can meet the requirements - the job performance requirements of 1033. Obviously, for anyone going into the court setting either as a civil or criminal investigator, one of the first questions is going to be do you meet the 1033 standard. As a result of this mandated list of courses, Joe and I have included the vast majority of these mandated courses along with handout material in the current class.
KARRIE CLINKINBEARD: I’m Karrie Clinkinbeard, and the course that I’m teaching is effects of ignoring the scientific method and how what you say and do as an expert can be used against you in a court of law. What we will be doing is walking through the various pitfalls that experts can fall into when conducting investigations and giving an opinion based upon those investigations, looking at each step of the scientific method, which everyone should be familiar with, and find cases where - and we’ll go through the cases where experts have been limited or their opinions have been excluded for failing to follow one or more of those steps of the scientific method and the fact that courts are actually calling out the scientific method specifically, as well as NFPA 921 and excluding those experts based upon the specific steps that are laid out in the scientific method.
In addition to that, we’ll look at the rise of litigation against experts themselves, fire investigation experts as well as other types of experts themselves arising out of the work that they’ve done and those lawsuits come from, you know, opposing parties that were affected by something that expert did or their own client strangely enough. Those claims include claims for defamation where they will claim that the expert has said something that has defamed an opposing party in their testimony and how the testimony of privileges may or may not apply to that, failing to follow the standards of the scientific method, and if that results in the exclusion of the experts opinion to the detriment of the client’s case then that may be the form of a breach of contract case. And then, there’s a whole slew of new cases that are coming out where experts as sued as third parties for spoliation or destruction of evidence.
Q: What interesting or surprising things do you think attendees will learn from your course?
KARRIE CLINKINBEARD: I think one of the most interesting things that they’ll learn is, you know, there is sort of a difference of opinion about NFPA 1033 and 921, and whether that is considered a guide or a standard, and there is definitely a split pretty much down the middle as to whether they see it as a guide or a standard, and I think what the experts will find interesting is the slew of cases that have come down. There have been at least ten in the past year from across the country that specifically call 921 out as a standard, and you know we see in quotes out of some those cases, the golden standard and the golden document for how experts are to conduct their investigations. And so I think that will probably be one of the most interesting things that they’ll find - or surprising maybe, that even the courts are calling it a standard and what affect that may have on the work that they do. Then they might find interesting that - some of the pointers that we give them to help protect themselves, both from exclusion obviously, exclusion of their opinions obviously, and then how to protect themselves and even to the point of insuring themselves, having insurance policies against these third-party lawsuits for the work that they’ve done.
We’re grateful for our instructors taking a few moments to let us know what’s going to be happening at this ATC in May. Thanks for your time.
There’s still time to register to attend ATC 2011, take these important courses, network with your fellow professionals in fire investigation, see the latest tools and equipment available, and take advantage of all that Las Vegas has to offer. You can register online at firearson.com. We have direct links for you on this podcast’s web page.
That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll see you again next month. And we hope to see you at ATC 2011.
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.