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 this edition of the IAAI’s CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll have a story for you in a few minutes about the final report on the four-fatality fire at the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in West Chester, Pennsylvania. But first, we are pleased to welcome Chad Campanell, a Senior Special Agent and Certified Fire Investigator at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He is also the National Center for Explosives Training and Research liaison to the ATF Fire Research Lab. Special Agent Campanell is here to talk about how ATF assists state and local fire investigators with training and investigations as well as the strong partnership between the ATF and the IAAI. ATF has long supported CFItrainer.Net by providing experts for module, podcast, and resource development as well as direct financial support for the platform. Simply, they help CFITrainer.Net stay on the air and available to all of you with quality, vetted content that improves the skills of fire investigators. Special Agent Campanell, welcome to the podcast.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Hello. Good to be here.
ROD AMMON: I appreciate you taking the time, and I understand you’re down working with NFPA, and do you want to talk about that role that you’re doing now?
CHAD CAMPANELL: I am on the technical committee for the new fire investigation unit portion of the new fire investigation unit standard that NFPA is developing.
ROD AMMON: I’m sure they’re excited about the work that’s being done down there, and it’s – well, congratulations to you for being selected. So, we were going to talk about the ATF and what they do for fire investigators in the state and local and national level. So how does the ATF support the education and training of fire investigators?
CHAD CAMPANELL: Oh wow, that’s a loaded question. I mean every way we can really. We support the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland on their Basic Origin and Cause class as well as their Basic Electrical class. We offer Advanced Fire Origin and Cause training at our National Center for Explosives Training and Research down at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. All of our CFIs travel around the country and offer our state and local fire investigation counterparts fire investigation-related training. We’re invited to several conferences that are hosted by our state and local counterparts, local chapters of the International Association of Arson Investigators, as well as hosting conferences. Sometimes we will bring – we will host a conference and bring fire investigators in from the area to provide them with training.
ROD AMMON: So, tell me about the ATF FRL and how local and state investigators can get access to the lab’s experience.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Oh, our state and local fire investigators, all they need to know is who their local CFI is. Their local ATF-certified fire investigator is their conduit to the FRL. CFI will, after receiving a call for assistance from a state or local, the CFI will reach out to either myself or one of the engineers at the Fire Research Laboratory to see what they can do. Usually, it’s something as simple as a test. They’re at a fire scene. They’re presented with a problem that their time to testing is running into some limitations on. There’s no research available, or they don’t know which way the hypothesis can go. That’s where the FRL comes in. Sometimes – a lot of times we can assist them by looking up past research or even past testing that the FRL has done like somebody is looking to find out how long a cigarette burns in a polyurethane foam chair before it ignites, and they don’t have a basis for that. They can call us up, and we can do some research and try to find out if it’s something that requires more specific testing. For example, if there hasn’t been past research done on it or there hasn’t been a past test done on it, we can design a test and actually do it. So, if somebody wants to know how a particular brand of cigarettes burns in a particular chair, we can design a test where we go out, we buy those cigarettes, we buy that chair, and we conduct a test, and we see what it can do.
ROD AMMON: That is an incredibly strong resource for somebody who’s out there who doesn’t have those kind of resources around them.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Right.
ROD AMMON: Simple question. Well, I don’t know, maybe a stupid question. Does everybody who – do all fire investigators know who their ATF person or contact is?
CHAD CAMPANELL: Oh, that’s actually a pretty good question. They can call up their local ATF office, which is available in the phone book or however you’re going to find the phone number for a local ATF office and ask to speak to the resident agent in charge or the group supervisor of that office and ask them.
ROD AMMON: So, there’s – and all those office numbers are listed I guess at ATF.gov.
CHAD CAMPANELL: I believe so, yes.
ROD AMMON: I also noticed something recently that maybe people aren’t aware of that if you go to ATF.gov, you can sign up for ATF updates in your specific area or things that are being put out by that office, so that’s sort of a nice feature.
CHAD CAMPANELL: That is true. We’ve also – it’s my understanding, although it’s not in my particular department, we’ve increased our social media presence, so there are a lot of ways people can find out what we’re doing in their areas.
ROD AMMON: Okay. So, what other resources does the ATF have? There’s quite a few other things that are involved for local fire investigators. Talk a little bit about NRT and BATS and NCETR.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Oh wow. That’s – how much time do you got?
ROD AMMON: Oh, we got time.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Well, I mean our National Response Team – a lot of people know our National Response Team is comprised of veterans, special agents including certified fire investigators like myself, explosives enforcement officers, certified explosives specialists, forensic chemists, fire protection engineers, electrical engineers. The NRT responds to major fire and explosion scenes around the country. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge, working major fire scenes. With some, what might be a once-in-a-lifetime fire for a particular area, the NRT does all the time, and having that team come in to assist you with that major fire scene might be of great benefit to your community.
For state or local fire investigators tasked with investigating a large fire scene, again, it comes down to knowing who your local certified fire investigator is. You reach out to the local certified fire investigator who can start the process for activating the National Response Team. There – and there’s actually several types of responses for the NRT. You don’t have to – you might not need the full NRT callout to come out to your scene. You might just need help with documenting the fire scene. You might just need help with doing interviews. If you have 100 interviews that need to be done now, the NRT is a good way to get that done. We can dispatch it. It’s almost like – in some cases, it’s almost NRT a la carte where you pick what you need, and other times it’s just a full callout, and that might just be easier to facilitate.
And major fire scenes, it doesn’t have to be a warehouse the size of a city block. It can be anything that’s significant to the local community. If you have a – just a house fire that has – that’s a large life-loss fire or a firefighter line-of-duty death, these are resources that are available to you that can come in and assist you with that investigation. We also have – we also – believe it or not, this is another branch of what we do.
We also have arson profilers stationed with the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. The arson profilers – they’re trained to assist fire investigators with everything from developing profiles on serial arsonists to designing interview strategies for potential suspects. You mentioned the bomb and arson tracking system. The bomb and arson tracking system is a way for fire investigators and fire investigation units to do everything from manage their cases to do searches of incidents in their area to look for potential trends.
ROD AMMON: And I mentioned it as BATS.
CHAD CAMPANELL: BATS, yes. That’s correct, yes.
ROD AMMON: And I – one of the things I have to say is that over the years I know that it’s always a challenge to get people to use reporting software, and I know the demands on fire investigators and fire service people there, there’s already many new demands for documentation. But one of the things that I’ve learned is that, first of all, you guys have really done a lot to update the simplicity of using BATS and also the simplicity or the ease of getting information from it, and there have been some success stories in closing some cases.
CHAD CAMPANELL: I can tell you BATS has come a long way since I started using it. I’ve been using it now for most of my career now, and it has definitely come a long way. It’s definitely much more user friendly.
ROD AMMON: So that’s something – I guess I’m trying to remember. How does somebody get access to BATS?
CHAD CAMPANELL: Go to bats.gov, and they can sign up for an account.
ROD AMMON: Okay. So, tell me about the process. You just talked about reaching out to a local CFI or to getting in touch with somebody through the web from ATF, and it might be related to the NRT. What’s the process for the ATF becoming involved? How do I know when I need that help, and what should I expect?
CHAD CAMPANELL: Well, I’ve been – I’ve responded to many of these calls, so I’m actually – I’ve been on both sides of it. I have been on fire scenes where I have been responding to a call for assistance from our state or local counterpart, and I have been the person assisted by the NRT where I’ve been presented with a case where I’m looking at this fire scene. It is – a lot of it’s just if you’re feeling overwhelm by a significant scene, that’s okay. Help is literally a phone call away. You can call up your local CFI, and that CFI can respond in, and now you have another brain working with you.
There’s no reason to work a fire scene alone, especially a significant one, and that CFI is going to bring with him all of the knowledge, training, and experience that he’s gathered over the course of so many years. CFIs have access to fire scenes from all over the country. They’ve got access to FRL, and just having a CFI at your fire scene is going to increase the amount of hypothesis development and testing that you’re going to do during the course of that investigation, and at the end of the day, strengthen your overall opinion.
ROD AMMON: I’m just sitting here thinking that there are a lot of people out there that might be on an investigation, and they’d be – I don’t know if the word squeamish, concerned, feeling like, oh, I shouldn’t call a federal agency. That’s too big a phone call, and I – the message I continue to hear from you guys is make the call.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Make the call. It’s old fire department mentality. It’s always easier to turn around a resource than it is to ask for it when it’s too late.
ROD AMMON: Well, so everybody out there listening, make the call. I know that you’ve been a big advocate of CFITrainer.Net from the beginning, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you’ve used it personally?
CHAD CAMPANELL: I think I’ve taken every class on that, and it’s great. It’s taught by people that are at the cutting edge of the fire investigation field, so you’re really getting great training to keep up with whatever certifications you have to maintain for your state, and on top of that, to fulfill the requirements dictated in NFPA 1033, which is the standard for qualifications for fire investigators. It says that you need to keep updated on the current trends in fire investigation.
ROD AMMON: I’m thinking about the partnership between the ATF, the IAAI, and CFITrainer.Net, and I’m wondering if you could give us sort of a 20,000-foot view of why that’s so important to the ATF and what you see for it in the future.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Well, I mean the IAAI is recognized throughout the world in the field of fire investigation. It’s a natural fit between ATF and the IAAI given our common missions for educating people about fire investigation. The IAAI and CFITrainer.Net act as conduits for the flow of information for what has been developing in a very rapidly changing field of fire investigation.
ROD AMMON: I know that the IAAI is very grateful to be involved with the ATF and also very grateful for the support that the ATF provides. What am I missing?
CHAD CAMPANELL: Just some other stuff that the CFIs can help with. It’s not just the – we don’t just help with fire scenes. We help with trial strategies, too. A lot of times, prosecutors, attorneys don’t do a lot of fire investigation cases. They don’t prosecute a lot of arson cases, and in those cases where a fire investigator is bringing a case to court, where it is classified as an incendiary fire and it is an arson in their jurisdiction, there is a pretty good chance that the prosecutor that’s prosecuting the case doesn’t have a lot of experience doing arson cases. We offer an Arson for Prosecutors School out of the NCETR in addition to our Advanced Origin and Cause class that we offer out of the NCETR that I failed to mention before. But our Arson for Prosecutors class is given around the country, and it trains prosecutors on some of the issues that come up during arson trials. Additionally, a local CFI or we can fly a CFI in if it’s requested to actually counsel the prosecutor when dealing with issues that come up in court. Things like trial preparation for fire investigation, expert witnesses, and report reviews, things along that line are other services that we bring to the table that aren’t directly related to excavating a fire scene.
ROD AMMON: That’s really interesting. I had not heard about that and great addition to our information today. Well, we thank you very much, Chad Campanell. He’s a senior agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Thank you very much for your time, Chad.
CHAD CAMPANELL: Thank you so much.
ROD AMMON: We’ll be in touch in the future.
CHAD CAMPANELL: All right, sounds good.
ROD AMMON: There’s a recent example in the news about how ATF can support local fire investigators in a tough case. In 2017, a five-alarm fire at a multi-building senior nursing and rehabilitation center killed four elderly residents. Due to the extensive damage to the property and the size of the fire, local officials requested the ATF join the investigation. In January 2019, the final origin and cause report of the joint investigation between ATF and the Chester County Fire Marshal’s office was released. The damage to the building made it impossible to determine the precise origin and cause, although the report states the opinion that the fire likely started in the rear garden room, which was an outdoor patio under an overhang.
The investigators did not believe the fire was intentional. The investigation did find that the main valve to the sprinkler system in the building where the fire began had been closed at some point prior to the fire. According to ATF, despite extensive testing and interviews, investigators were unable to determine definitively when the valve was turned off, but based on the totality of the investigation, investigators believe it was off during the fire. The investigators did not render an opinion as to whether a properly functioning sprinkler system would have affected the fire growth and spread given the origin. Factors contributing to the fire spread included strong winds, flammability of vinyl siding, and the lack of exterior sprinklers, which are not required by code. The fire investigation was a collaborative effort between the Chester County District Attorney's Office, Chester County Fire Marshal's Office, Pennsylvania State Police, West Chester Police Department, Chester County Sheriff’s Office, and Chester County Department of Emergency Services. The investigation included more than 300 interviews, an extensive fire scene examination, review of witness photos and videos, and testing at the ATF Fire Research Lab.
CFITrainer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the residents who died in this fire.
If you are interested in learning more about automatic sprinkler systems, how they can become impaired, preplanning for response to protect properties, and how to interact with sprinkler systems at a response, there are two links to further training on this podcast page: one online training module from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Fighting Fire In Sprinklered Buildings program from FM Global. If you’re responsible for doing preplanning or respond to properties protected by sprinkler systems, you might want to view this training and forward it to your colleagues.
Just a shout out to the folks at Ball Watch Switzerland, I wanted to say how grateful we are for them donating a watch to the IAAI Foundation auction for this year’s ITC. If you missed out, you can learn more about that watch in the news section of the IAAI’s website at firearson.com.
And just a reminder to all of you, a majority of our funding for CFITrainer.Net and this podcast comes from a grant from DHS/FEMA/USFA, the fire prevention and safety grants.
For the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net, I’m Rod Ammon.
Lauer, Cynthia. Sprinkler valve was off in Pennsylvania nursing home fire that killed 4. The Morning Call. 31 Jan 2019.
Fire Investigation Completed on Fatal Fire in West Chester, PA. ATF News Release. Philadelphia Field Division. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. 31 January 2019.
Fighting Fire In Sprinklered Buildings. FM Global Fire Service Learning Network.
Automatic Fire Sprinkler and Alarm Systems. Fire Hero Learning Network. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
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.