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 the CFITrainer.Net podcast. This is a time of unprecedented challenges for the emergency services. We are going to keep bringing you timely and interesting topics in fire investigation. But please know that we are mindful that Coronavirus is impacting every aspect of your life, as you continue to fulfill your mission. We'd like to hear from you how COVID-19 and it's affects like lockdown, social distancing, exposure risk, and increased calls for service are impacting how you and your department operate. Please get in touch with us using the contact form linked to this page, near the resources. We hope to tailor some future programming to your concerns and responses. If maintaining your training is challenging during this time, remember that online learning from CFITrainer.Net is available. There's also online learning from the National Fallen Firefighters at FHLN.net and there's roadway safety information available from the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association at respondersafety.com. You can just click on their learning network there.
So, also online learning available from UL and the National Fire Academy. They are all available remotely from your computer or device 24/7, 365. In person classes may not be an option right now, but you can still keep building your skills using distance learning, links are available on this podcast page. Today on the podcast, we're talking to Dr. Peter Mansi. Dr. Mansi is an IAAI-CFI, a member of the Chartered Society for Forensic Services, a fellow of the Institution of Fire Engineers and the past president of the IAAI. He developed a fire investigation approach called fire investigation roadmaps or FIRMs, that provides a system for applying the scientific method to analyze the data collected at a fire incident in an unbiased manner. He's here today to talk about FIRMs. Dr. Mansi hails from the UK, where he is a partner at Fire Investigations, UK. It's a pleasure to welcome you. How are you, Peter?
Peter Mansi: Thank you, Rodney. It's a pleasure to be talking to you again, and I missed you this year at the ITC.
Rod Ammon: Yeah, that was... Well that still is a brutal thing. You're used to that annual recharge of seeing everybody from around the world.
Peter Mansi: Absolutely.
Rod Ammon: So let's move on to this FIRMs. How did you get the idea?
Peter Mansi: Okay. So many moons ago I was facilitating forensic science students at London South Bank University. But at the same time, I was doing a lot of research into arsonists and arson detection and arson prosecution. And I said to the professor that I was dealing with, that I would like to get an ology one day in something with all this research I'm doing. So he suggested that I do what is called an MPhil research degree, which I eventually converted to a doctorate, a PhD. And it was to design a methodology that all of the potential hypotheses at a scene can be rigorously tested. And it forces an investigator to ask the question instead of making an assumption. So, that's how it originally started. And with the guidance of my professor, we set off and it took nine years to get there.
Rod Ammon: So help us understand, wow, nine years I had no idea that you had that much time into it. Congratulations. That's a lot of work.
Peter Mansi: It is.
Rod Ammon: So, what are FIRMs and how do they work?
Peter Mansi: So fire investigation roadmaps, if you can imagine a geographical map, there are many routes that you can take along a path to get to the same answer, to get to the same end goal. And what can happen is there are so many distractions that can take you off of that path, you need to come back onto it. So I've often compared them to flight checklists, and I'm an avid follower of air crash investigations. And I've been watching this over the years. How very professional pilots and individuals can make a mistake because they've been distracted. They've missed a risk critical bit of data. And in our case, that may be the piece of data that can determine the cause of the fire. So the roadmaps were designed to have a structure to your thought process. It is a methodology of how you develop your hypothesis.
So it's not a tick box checklist as such, but it does force you to answer the questions. So it was broken down into many different categories that actually doesn't take long to do before you leave the scene. So if we go back to the pilot checklist, the pilot will use that before they take off the ground. The idea with the FIRMs is that they are used before you leave the scene. Because as we say, what you leave at the scene, you lose it at the scene. And I can't tell you how many times I still think practice what you preach. Let's do the FIRMs before we leave. And there's a piece of information that I've forgotten to ask or I may have made an assumption. So I have to nail it down and get the facts. So, that's all it does. It forces you to ask the question and not make an assumption.
Rod Ammon: Sounds like a real good idea. So let's take ourselves to the scene, and tell me, are you using this as a piece of paper? Or are you using this on a tablet or on a phone? How does FIRMs actually work with you while you're doing your job?
Peter Mansi: Okay. Well, all of our investigators use it as it's all tied into our... In parallel with ISO 17020. But it's part of our ISO 9,001 management system. So you don't pull up at the scene and then get a checklist out and start going through it. You do what you're trained to do. You use your training, your experience, your qualifications, everything you've done to get you to where you are today, you use those skills. You may come to a point where you've got time to sit down, reflect, make notes. It may be an hour, seven hours into an investigation. It might be a day or two later, if you're on a protracted investigation. But it's now an app Rod. Sorry, to answer your question, I originally went to publishers to produce this in a book format. And many of them said it doesn't lend itself to a book. It lends itself to an app.
So me and my team, and other people around the world will log onto any tablet, iPad, they can use on their phone, any platform, because it's web based and you just go through the prompts and it will be a yes or no, or the information isn't available. So for instance, if you're talking about adverse weather conditions, I've used this on a case that's 10 years old. So adverse weather conditions, ah, I haven't got that information. I need to go back somewhere and find that information. So I may say at that point information isn't available. So it has to be a potential hypothesis if I haven't got the information to refute it. So at the end, when you've gone through this and it literally takes less than 15 minutes, normally around 10 minutes to complete on the tablet, before you leave the scene. It will then list potential hypotheses that apply to that fire scene. Or you then have to go back and do further research, but it forces you to ask the question before you leave the scene. And I've got a perfect example that I'll give you later.
Rod Ammon: Well, I was just going to ask you for examples, so why don't you give it to me now?
Peter Mansi: Okay. So the simple example I'm going to give you is this, how easy it is to make an assumption. And every fire investigator has done it in their career, probably does it without realizing it. And that's not being disrespectful. I do it, I'll put my hands up. So I'll go to what they called a Pyrolytic oven. So there's a fire in the casing of this Pyrolytic oven, it's just an oven that self-cleans, it gets to very, very high temperatures. A very expensive house just outside North London and it's contained to the housing that the oven is sitting in. The lady of the house smells smoke. The detector goes off. She gets a small garden hose, turns everything off, puts it out down the side of the oven. So I'll now ask her the usual questions. I'll take the photograph, I'll get the appliance out of the housing. I wrap it up, I label it, do the forms, everything else.
Put in the back of my Jeep. Then she's about to walk her dog. So thank you very much for the cup of tea, I was just about to drive off, and I thought, fill the FIRMs out, you know you should do it, fill it out. So I'm sitting there filling it out and I get to contractor. And I thought she never mentioned about having any work done on this, but I haven't asked her. So as she's walking away with the dog, I shouted out the window Mrs. whoever you are, can I ask you, has anybody worked on the oven at all recently? She said, yes, the morning of the fire. Pardon?
The morning of the fire. She said I had it serviced, the seal needed replacing. And the guy told me to put it on a Pyrolytic clean. And then it caught fire. I said, can you imagine if this is an arson prosecution and you have missed a simple piece of data like that because an assumption was made because she never mentioned it. I never saw any evidence of work being done on it, but there, that's a simple case, but it's an important one.
Rod Ammon: Sure. Is. I mean, you brought up aviation, they say just a couple of, usually one or two slipped things end up creating the big thing and...
Peter Mansi: Well, and do you know, how many planes have come down because prior to takeoff the flap setting hasn't been put right, because there has been an interruption. You can hear it on the black box where someone's walked into the cabin, and in some cases in Madrid, it happened three times when they got to that part. And so that's why they've done away with paper checklists now. With the FIRMs app, you can't progress until you answer the question.
Rod Ammon: So the aviation analogy works well, as far as, hey, if you forget this, that, or the other thing, you might have a really bad thing happened down the road. Do you have another example where you feel as though, hey really caught something that could have been an issue, or just another example you want to share?
Peter Mansi: I have, I'll give you one that was an arson prosecution. Now, all of this research was, the purpose and the title of the thesis was to increase the prosecution rate for arson, which at the time was around 3%. It was the lowest prosecuted crime. That was the purpose of it. However, I spent the first five years of my research doing anything but arson. It was all accidental causes because unless you can eliminate, positively eliminate an accidental cause you can't say it was a deliberate fire, because it's got to be beyond reasonable doubt. So I got involved with a case review as we will often do. So this case was about four or five years old. It was going through the prosecution process at the time. And a colleague in another fire department had taken this forward with the police as a prosecution. And I thought, it smacks of, this guy has set the fire.
So I used the FIRMs app, went through and one of the critical questions was the weather. And when it's that long ago, you can get that information. And the big issue was the wind direction. Now, once I'd got that piece of information, it was pretty clear. It involved a guy walking into a big, if you say like a mini aircraft hangar, and although he could smell smoke, he really couldn't... It didn't bother him because there'd been welding going on earlier that day. He popped into pick up an envelope and walk back out again.
But the wind was quite strong wind coming right behind him. So as he opened the wicket door, is it possible that the wind blew in through that wicket door and pushed that smoke away from him, so it didn't affect him that much? In fact, doing that actually started to feed a smoldering fire and transition into a flame. Once we'd done all the tests, it was pretty clear that that is a high possibility. He still could have set the fire, but it could have been accidental. So he was acquitted, which was the right thing to do. But that piece of information was never considered in all of the investigation up to that point.
Rod Ammon: Interesting. So I guess that's quite a lesson learned. Anything else you want to share with us about the application of the app? And I guess you said it's available for Apple and it's available for Android or any web access.
Peter Mansi: Yeah. So the reason that I did that rather than device specific is, I mean the big complication with setting up this website is the encryption. It had to be absolutely secure that even the guy that programs it doesn't know the case name or details. It just comes out as gobbledygook, a string of different numbers. Only the person that registers can ever see. I've got on the screen in front of me now, a whole list of my jobs that I can see the name I've given them and the reference number, but the guy that does the programming, he can never see what I'm looking at on the screen.
Because, you understand what it means Rod, it's above me, it's double encrypted or whatever it is, so you can't see it. Now, the thing is with using these is, if you look at NFPA 921, where it asks for, let me just open one up. It asks for details, your methodology in how you conducted your fire investigation. Well to list out every single bit of your thought process is almost impossible to do, because you can't remember. Whereas what this does, it lists your... It's a decision log.
It produces a PDF decision log at the end and it'll give a decision number, a question ID number, the question itself, what your answer was and the date and time that you made that decision. So if at any time you get a new piece of data, you can go back anywhere within the phone, delete it. It will delete everything below it because you're going down a different route, and it will then... It doesn't delete the date and time you made that first decision. It puts a thin line through it and the new date and time. So we've had one of our guys give evidence in court and the judge asked, why did you change your mind here? We can see in his decision log, he could explain he had new data that became available. So it changed his hypothesis. So it's a great way of documenting your decision log basically.
Rod Ammon: And it sounds like an excellent way to show your systematic approach to what you're doing. So there's actually a product that comes out of this, that sounds very valuable to people. Are people in the United States using this?
Peter Mansi: There are several using now. I mean it's something that I don't push Rod, it's there if people want to use it. All I ever say is, if you're going to come up against one of our guys, you'd better have a good system of logging your decisions and your thought process and how you come up with those hypotheses. Because we use this. We've been complimented on by our ISO accredited organization. And it's amazing how much it works.
I did a boat fire last week, just less than a week ago, which was an arson fire. And by using this, the client was very impressed with it and pleased with the way it came out because they caught someone and that old get out of jail card is, I was actually trying to steal the VHF radio and in doing so I must have started a fire. Well, this forces you to go through all of those potential accidental causes and say, there is no evidence, but there is evidence of deliberate fire setting [inaudible 00:18:09] and so on. So it's a simple thing Rod, it is a flight checklist, before you leave the scene, this fire I had was a 500 mile round trip. And if I would just get back and say, oh, I forgot to look at.. It's a long way to go back. So, it works.
Rod Ammon: Well, it sounds like a great tool. That's a simple thing to integrate into what you do during the day. So any legal issues, as far as you know, this is something you created over in the UK. Legally, does it still seem to work when it crosses over the pond?
Peter Mansi: Yeah. And from the guys that are using it in the States, they've said that they'll always use it. It gives them a good structure and do you know though Rod, I'll be perfectly honest with you, I'm like everybody else. When I've finished at the end of a scene, especially when I've got a long drive home, the last thing I want to really do is sit in the vehicle. Or just go through and do this. But it's a habit, it's like putting your seatbelt on. You just get in the habit of doing it, or putting your crash helmet on. This takes 10 minutes to do, and you drive away every single time. In fact, I always challenge people when they sign up for this. If you do this for the next 10 scenes, you won't not do it on your 11th, because you'll feel uncomfortable that you may have forgotten something. Because you'll always find something that you probably missed.
Rod Ammon: It's a great point.
Peter Mansi: It's a safety net.
Rod Ammon: So how does somebody get started if they want to try it out?
Peter Mansi: Well, it's a subscription because of the cost of running the platform. As you know more than most, running it, updating it and tweaking. One of the things, you can use it for four weeks. And what I always say to people is please use it. Set a date in your diary like all of these subscription things. If it' not for you. Just delete it and cancel it. Go back over old cases. Get on there, go back over old cases that you've done and apply the FIRMs app and see if you were still a hundred percent happy about the outcome of that case.
Rod Ammon: Okay. And is there a website they should go to?
Peter Mansi: There is it's www.firmsapp.io.
Rod Ammon: So spell that out for us. Because I've got a little bit of feedback and you've got a little bit of British.
Peter Mansi: Okay. So it's Foxtrot, India, Romeo, Mike, Sierra, Alpha, Papa, Papa. Dot IO.
Rod Ammon: Okay. So firmsapp.io.
Peter Mansi: That's it. That's that's how you say it.
Rod Ammon: Okay. Well that's about it unless, did I neglect to ask anything that you feel is important?
Peter Mansi: No, that's the thing. After nine years Rod, I could talk about this all day, but it's so simple. In fact, when I was doing the research and getting towards the end, I was lucky I had 28 fire investigation officers in the London fire brigade that I could apply these to. And it's just human nature that people don't realize they're taking the short cut, they're making an assumption and they're not recording it, this forces them. And it's so simple. And it was, the guy that challenged me is Professor Dougal Drysdale on my Viber. And he said to me about a year or two later, why isn't this published? Why haven't you got it out there? And so he really encouraged me to do this and I'm pleased he did.
Rod Ammon: I'm glad to. And I just was thinking, as you said, fire brigade, one of the things we didn't do was introduce your role to the fire brigade. Why don't you just tell us that real quick before we go out because I feel neglectful.
Peter Mansi: Oh not at all. So I started this research when I was in the fire and arson investigation team in the London Fire Brigade. And it took me a year after I retired from the fire department to complete the research. But while I was there, I was fortunate enough to end up being the group manager for the whole team, where we had 28 dedicated, full time fire investigation officers. So I could apply my research and the methodology to those fire investigators to see if it worked or not. And I was just surprised at how simple things seemed to work very well.
Rod Ammon: Yeah, it was good to be in leadership and to have a focus group. So...
Peter Mansi: Yeah, absolutely
Rod Ammon: Well, Peter, thank you very much again for your time today.
Peter Mansi: You're more than welcome Rod, and as always, thanks for you do with CFITrainer and everything else. And I look forward to hearing more and seeing you next year, if not before.
Rod Ammon: Best to you and Claire, be well and we'll see you soon.
Peter Mansi: And you, take care Rod, bye mate.
Rod Ammon: Thanks Peter.
Peter Mansi: Bye.
Rod Ammon: We are very grateful for Dr. Mansi coming on to speak with us about FIRMs on today's podcast. Sounds like it's a pretty innovative tool and what's nice is it sounds like it's simple to use and it has a work product that comes out of it that could be useful to a lot of folks. We have a link to the FIRMs tool online on this podcast page. So users can learn more. This podcast and CFITrainer.Net are made possible by funding from a fire prevention and safety grant from the assistance to firefighters grant program administered by FEMA and the US department of Homeland security. Support also comes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and voluntary online donations from CFITrainer.Net users and podcast listeners like you. Thanks again for your time today. We appreciate it. Stay safe. We'll see you next time for the International Association of Arson Investigators and CFITrainer.Net. I'm Rod Ammon.
Fire Hero Learning Network. National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
National Fire Academy Online Courses
National Fire Protection Association Online Training.
Fire Investigation Road Maps (FIRMs).
This program provides a primer on accreditation, certification, and certificates for fire investigation training.
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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.
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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.