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 this special and short edition of CFITrainer.Net’s podcast. This time we’re going to be talking about this year’s International Association of Arson Investigators ITC or International Training Conference. Our audience always wants to know about training opportunities, and they are posted at firearson.com, but we wanted to highlight this year’s conference in Vegas because there’s so much training and networking in one place, so how couldn’t we shout about that a little bit? With me tonight is David Bridges. He is an attorney with Meagher & Geer and an IAAI CFI. David, I’ve been told you took a leading role in this year’s ITC. Why don’t you tell us about your role?
DAVID BRIDGES: Hey, good evening, Rod. Thanks for having me on tonight, and I do want to say that I’ve had the pleasure of working with several other individuals, Trace Lawless, Dan Hebert, Bobby Schaal, Rick Jones, and myself, and we’ve assembled a diverse program that is going to hit our membership, and it’s going to be at the very beginning of their career and experience levels and goes all the way to the most seasoned and advanced investigator, engineer, or claims professional that works in the fire explosion and investigation field.
ROD AMMON: So what are you most excited about?
DAVID BRIDGES: You know, it’s kind of hard to nail down any one offering that we’ve got. Everyone is worth highlighting, but just to name a few, we’ve got Mike Bergeron, who is a former ATF agent, who’s going to be discussing an insurance fraud case that went on for many years and involved multiple fire incidents, a great many of which were ruled to be not incendiary or accidental even. We’ve got several research presentations. To name a few, Greg Gorbett. He’s going to be discussing the use of damage in fire investigation. Dan Madrzykowski is going to be talking about the impact of ventilation on room fires in full-scale structures. Andy Cox is going to be doing a lot of other presentations on those same concepts.
We’ve got wildland fire scene origin and cause investigation. We’ve got a brand new insurance track that is geared for insurance claims professionals from SIU investigators to claims personnel to adjustors and is geared to those individuals who may not necessarily be origin-and-cause experts, but may actually have a large amount of involvement with these claims. We’ve also got classes on NFPA 921, the updates that are coming out in March that are going to be made available to the industry as a whole, and that’s of course very important as well that we’re going to be discussing. We’ve got various engineering and other specialty programs that are geared towards enabling the origin-and-cause investigator to perform a complete investigation and examination of the scene, but actually get in to some of the complex nuanced areas of being able to pinpoint evidence indicative of the origin and/or cause.
ROD AMMON: So how is the facility? Have you been out there?
DAVID BRIDGES: I have. I went to the facility last in 2014. It’s a great facility, and there’s plenty of room. There’s – the presentation halls are great.
ROD AMMON: It’s funny. I asked you that. I was there, too, and I was – it was a nice setup. It was sort of – it was great. You could take advantage of what’s going on in Vegas, but at the same time you really felt that camaraderie and that group that gathered at a location. It wasn’t like the city was overwhelming you. It was like the group of folks that are in the IAAI really got together and networked and did all the things that happened at these training conferences. I think that’s just as big a deal sometimes as all the training and education you just mentioned. It always amazes me when you get hundreds and hundreds of people, and hopefully this year maybe over at – in the thousands zone, when you get all those folks together, how small the industry is when you put together the network and you start to see how important the connections are across the country and around the globe for fire investigators.
DAVID BRIDGES: To that point, I mean one of the things that’s difficult to quantify that you’ll readily see as soon as you attend the events is just we serve a very diverse population. We have people from the public sector. You’ve got law enforcement, fire service, emergency management, other various states – federal, state, and local agencies and prosecutorial arms. Then you’ve got your private sector people who will be there, too, from the claims personnel to origin-and-cause investigators to engineering-specific specialties, and of course, counsel that might deal with those claims from the outset to trial. But in doing so, you’re able to really network and see what works well for other people.
ROD AMMON: You know, I think one of the things we see every year is that the same people always go because they know what they get out of it.
DAVID BRIDGES: For me personally, it’s a no-brainer. I mean I see the value. I mean I’ve got a front-row seat to – especially in the litigation realm and you see the value on making sure that your experts are competent. They’re certified. They’re knowledgeable to handle the issues in play, and they’re able to articulate their findings in a way that makes sense, and I think through your membership, you’re opening the door to so many other effective ways to get these meaningful training opportunities. And by the way, it’s not just that initial I’m going to go to one ITC and be done for the next five years. It’s a continuing obligation that I think the profession demands.
There are numerous industry standards and other guidelines that apply to this field, but it’s a continuing obligation that you have to be in all the time. It’s a perishable skill, too, and I think these training programs we put together, again, not to beat a dead horse, but we try to tailor them to the brand new investigator all the way to the well-seasoned expert who’s testified as an expert numerous times, and quite frankly, who more likely than not presents at these same training concepts. I think – or these training seminars. I think it says a lot when you have instructors that come who are the experts in their field who also say after they present, I want to stay for the rest of the training program. I want to – that’s a class I want to sit in because of the information that’s being delivered.
ROD AMMON: One of the things I wanted to get out of you and maybe the two of us can work together to do this is to visualize for somebody who’s never been there what it’s like. So I’m thinking I’ll start out and then you pick it up, and between the two of us, we’ll stagger through what it’s like to have a week of this, but I’m thinking, first of all, Saturday the board gets together and talks about a lot of things that involve the membership. So the members need to know that the board is spending a whole lot of time in advance of any of the members getting there to have these board meetings and to take advantage of the time when they’re actually in one location to work out the business of the association. So then Sunday happens, and talk about what it’s like rolling into the hotel.
DAVID BRIDGES: So Sunday when the attendees arrive, they’re – it’s not just you’re arriving and you’re registering and you’re going to sit in your room. There are things going on, and there are intentional events planned so that you will interact with others, those welcome receptions, and you’re mingling with those other professionals who may be on the opposite side of the state, opposite side of the country, the opposite side of the world perhaps even from you, and while you may be different from that person in many ways, there are a lot of similarities that bring you together and those connections often last for a lifetime. So those types of activities, when you get there on Sunday, are – they’re intentional. They’re not planned by chance, but it is to stimulate and to encourage that interaction and to kick off the event in a way that’s – that really is going to be meaningful and help set the stage for that or help set the tone of the rest of the week.
ROD AMMON: And as you said, it’s designed to help you – you walk in all alone, and you haven’t had any – you get introduced. You get brought around to people and it’s nice, and then there’s, what – you have cocktail hours and different things that are set up so that, like you said, it keeps you engaged. And then Monday – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday I think, and a little bit of Friday, there are classes going on and all kinds of activities. There’s also things like the annual general meeting. I think it’s the AGM where sometimes there’s votes. There’s business of the association that’s going on, and then there’s also a banquet where a lot of awards are given out, whether it’s investigator of the year or photography awards or pins for people who have been there forever.
And also very important I think that everybody needs to remember is that voting is going on during that week, and as we can imagine, we’re all hoping that they’re voting – people are voting early and often right now, but the voting starts closing up, and the election results get out, and people find out the results of that at the dinner. So a lot going on for the IAAI at the ITC. Anything else you want to add?
DAVID BRIDGES: Attend, participate. There’s plenty of opportunities for you to get involved, and I think you’ll have a great time and get some really meaningful training from some of the world’s most experienced, seasoned, professionals in the fire and explosion industry.
ROD AMMON: And I think it’s important, if you’re one of the people who’s trying to figure out how to get to ITC, to talk to other people that have gone, and you can do this by contacting the office, having them connect you up with either somebody who’s a mentor or somebody who can give you some advice because there are a lot of ways that you can convince an employer or somebody else that you need the time to educate yourself to do the right thing. And getting some of those devices or getting some of those explanations shared might help you to get yourself out to one of these for the first time ever, and from there on in, I have a feeling it would become a regular thing.
DAVID BRIDGES: I mean we’re talking about a very specialized – that is becoming a very specialized industry even more and more by the day, and in doing so, a great many of the people that are attending these, they have supervisors and persons of responsibility that have to approve these things. And so in many ways, you have to break these things down for those people to help them understand the value that you’re bringing. So articulating is key, and I think the IAAI has done a great job with having things in place to make that a little easier, to make that – to lessen that burden in that regard.
ROD AMMON: Thank you very much for closing that up because sometimes I’m not as clear as I’d like to be, but now I’ll move on to reading something over here and say listen, if any of you all want to find out more about this year’s ITC, go to www.IAAIITC.com. That’s the website that’s set up specifically, IAAIITC.com, or you can go to firearson.com and click the link that will take you over to that website, but all the information you need for registration is there as well as a schedule and a promo video that’s exciting and new, and that’s about it. David, I appreciate your time and I know that a lot of the folks that are out there and that are going to go to this year’s ITC appreciate all the work you put into it and all of the team, so have a good night.
DAVID BRIDGES: Thank you, Rod, for having me. It’s been a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing everyone including you at the ITC in Las Vegas.
ROD AMMON: All right, thanks, David. Have a good night.
DAVID BRIDGES: All right, you too.
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.