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.
<p>Welcome to the May 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This podcast is dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week, which runs May 3-9, 2009. The week is sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration in partnership with the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the International Association of Arson Investigators. In this podcast, we will touch on different aspects of this year’s National Arson Awareness Week theme: Arson for Profit.</p>
<p>Defined broadly, arson for profit is the intentional setting of a fire for the purpose of financial gain. This financial gain can take many forms, including collecting an insurance settlement, reducing financial losses, disposing of depreciated assets, or putting a competitor out of business. The annual losses from arson are staggering. In 2007, The Insurance Information Institute found that arson destroyed nearly $900 million in insured property and killed 295 civilians in the United States. The Media Kit for National Arson Awareness Week includes a checklist of questions for investigators to use when determining if an arson for profit might have occurred. The Media Kit and checklist are available free on <a href="http://www.usfa.fema.gov" target="_blank">www.usfa.fema.gov</a>. </p>
<p>We begin with a rise in vehicle arsons for profit. According to CBS News, setting vehicles on fire has become so common in the desert outside Las Vegas that the Las Vegas police patrol daily by helicopter to find the burned out hulks. And, the police report, many of the cars are late model, some nearly brand new, and almost all set on fire by owners trying to collect insurance settlements. The telltale sign that the arsonists aren’t professionals? The burned cars aren’t stripped of the valuable parts that professional thieves would never leave behind. Regular people, strapped by the brutal economy, are resorting to desperate measures. Sharp jumps in vehicle arson caseloads have been reported in many states, including New Jersey, New York, Texas, California, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, and Arkansas. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud reports that the economic downturn is causing an increase in the number of vehicle arsons, as desperate car owners seek to unload vehicles they can no longer afford. An October 2008 report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau details the rise in vehicle "give-ups" and positively correlates this rise with rising gas prices. </p>
<p>Police and fire investigators should be on the lookout for some of the warning signs of vehicle arson fraud, including:
<li> Owner behind and/or habitually late making payments.</li><br /><br />
<li> Vehicle is worth less than the payments owed.</li><br /><br />
<li> Lease is up or almost up and owner has exceeded lease terms, such as mileage allowance.</li><br /><br />
<li> Vehicle has not been stripped of valuable parts, and/or is devoid of personal effects.</li><br /><br />
<li> Vehicle reported "stolen" had an active and working anti-theft device that was not triggered.</li><br /><br />
<li> No signs of forced entry into the vehicle.</li><br /><br />
<li> No damage to the ignition or steering lock.</li>
<p>Businesses are also prime targets in arson for profit schemes. The news is awash with stories of big banks, giant retailers, and venerable corporations filing for bankruptcy, going out of business, or being rescued by government bailout. But, in the midst of the current economic crisis, we hear less about the countless thousands of small businesses that are struggling and failing. For a small business, the margin of error is much smaller than a multinational corporation. It often takes very little to push a small business out of business. Some business owners, faced with financial ruin, choose a desperate path: arson for profit.</p>
<p>In January 2009, according to federal authorities, Jorge Gomez Pinto, Sr. chose to solicit individuals to burn down his Mexican restaurant in Weatherfield, TX, rather than see it closed in bad economic times. Unfortunately for him, one of the individuals he solicited was an undercover ATF Special Agent. Pinto stated that he had lost $400,000 and wanted to collect the $500,000 insurance settlement after the fire. Pinto cooked up an alibi complete with a fake heart attack, and eased the hired arsonists’ path with a faulty burglar alarm, a lack of security cameras, a full pre-arson tour of the facility, and two unlocked entry doors. Federal authorities arrested Pinto before he had a chance to follow through on his plan.</p>
<p>In Everett, Washington, authorities say that Mirza Akram, owner of a spice store, burned his store to collect an insurance settlement that would ease his financial problems. The store’s revenue had fallen 70% in the past year. As a cover, Akram spray-painted the business with anti-Arab epithets before setting the fire, hoping authorities would think the arson was a hate crime. He also planted a story with nearby business owners that he had been harassed by customers earlier that summer. But it was for naught. Not only was Akram mistaken about his name being on the insurance policy, federal authorities swiftly arrested him.</p>
<p>Some business owners don’t target their own companies, but a competitor instead. When his Atlanta strip club Platinum 21 started losing business to Club Onyx, general manager Boyd Smith and manager Howard Thrower paid a security guard to set fire to their competitor. The fire closed Club Onyx for six months and caused $1.8 million in damages and lost business. Smith was convicted in February 2009. Thrower and Sandeo Dyson, the security guard, pled guilty.</p>
<p>These three examples illustrate the variety of business arson for profit schemes. There can be many different investigative avenues to pursue, but some of the common red flags in this type of case include:
<li> Financial problems, such as drop in revenue, cash flow issues, overdue invoices, unpaid or late payroll, loan or line of credit debt, unpaid or late rent or mortgage</li><br /><br />
<li> Disagreement between partners</li><br /><br />
<li> Outdated, worthless, or low value equipment or inventory</li><br /><br />
<li> Property upkeep problems, code violations, fines, zoning law changes, tax increases</li><br /><br />
<li> Missing inventory or equipment</li><br /><br />
<li> Overstated business value</li><br /><br />
<li> Insurance coverage increases, especially in the absence of a documented increase in business value or risk</li><br /><br />
<li> Pending litigation or bankruptcy</li><br /><br />
<li> Prior insurance claims and fire losses</li><br /><br />
<li> Property or business for sale</li><br /><br />
<li> Back taxes</li><br /><br />
<li> Liens</li><br /><br />
<li> Expected items of value missing (removed before the fire)</li></ul></p>
<p>The third major form of arson for profit involves homeowners setting fire to their houses. For more information on this aspect of arson for profit, please listen to the January 2009 CFITrainer.Net podcast, which contains a feature on this topic.</p>
<p>Finally, let’s turn our attention to news from IAAI. </p>
<p>Time is running short to register for the IAAI Annual Training Conference in Arlington, Texas from May 17th - 23rd, 2009. More than 300 investigators from around the world have already registered for this event, which is the premier networking and professional development opportunity for fire, arson, and explosives investigators. Presenters include: Dr. John DeHaan, Dr. David Icove, Dr. David Howitt, Daniel Madrzykowski of NIST and the renowned Texas Rangers criminal investigation experts. To register, please visit firearson.com or contact Deb Bell at 410-451-3473. </p>
<p>Voting for the election of IAAI officers and board members as well as an amendment to the IAAI bylaws has begun and will run through noon central daylight time on Tuesday, May 19th. You can vote online in the members section of the IAAI website at <a href="http://www.firearson.com" target="_blank">www.firearson.com</a>. </p>
<p> IAAI is establishing a Speakers Bureau of members who are willing to volunteer their time to assist in the professional development of fire and arson investigator colleagues around the nation and the world. To register, you need to be a member of IAAI. Applications are available in the members-only section of the IAAI website, firearson.com</p>
<p>That concludes this CFITrainer.Net podcast dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week, May 3-9. Take time out this month to do something to raise arson awareness in your community or improve your arson for profit investigation skills. Visit usfa.fema.gov for more information on how you can participate. We’ll see you next month.</p>
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.
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 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.