CFITrainer.Net Podcast

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.

2021
October 2021 - Welcome to the CFITrainer.Net Podcast. It's been a while since we've done a news round up so today we're covering some new research and fire investigation cases.
Fire as a Cover for Murders and Gender Reveal Fires – September 2021 Podcast - This episode we talk to Texas Ranger Sergeant Drew Pilkington about incendiary fires as a cover for murder and we discuss a tragic quadruple domestic violence homicide.
December 2020 Podcast - On this podcast we talk to Bobby Schaal about the new Fire Investigation for Fire Officer certificate and then we offer a brief update on an investigation in Stowe, Vermont.
August 2020 - This month we talk to a legend in the fire investigation field, Dr. Quintiere, sometimes known as Dr. Q. He has a rich experience in the fire service dating back to the 70’s, and he is working on fire in micro-gravity today.
July 2020 Podcast - July '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this new episode of the CFITrainer.Net podcast, Scott Bennett, talks about the fascinating case he and Mark Shockman worked that won them the IAAI Investigator of the Year Award. You won't want to miss our conversation. And, new IAAI President Rick Jones stops by to discuss what he is excited about for IAAI's growth this coming year — there are a lot of innovative and valuable initiatives on the way.
June 2020 Podcast - June '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this month's podcast we interview Doug Byron, President and Senior Forensic Chemist from the FAST lab about fats and oils and spontaneous combustion, and how they are involved in fire investigation. After our interview with Doug, we offer some thoughts on your job and the COVID-19 situation.
May 2020 Podcast - May '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. Join us this month for a new podcast where we talk briefly about online learning that is available and then we speak with Dr. Peter Mansi, Past President of the IAAI.
April 2020 Podcast - April '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month on the Podcast we interview President Barry M. Grimm from the IAAI and talk to Wayne Miller, Author of "Burn Boston Burn -The largest arson case in the history of the country.
March 2020 Podcast - March '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month on the Podcast we talk about some resources for COVID, updates from the IAAI and talk with a fire Marshall in New Hampshire about challenges in their region related to Sober Homes.
February 2020 Podcast - February '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast follows along with our technology theme. We look at social media’s effect on some fire investigations and then we talk with Mike Parker about his work with social media while at the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
January 2020 Podcast - January '20 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast gives you updates on Australia’s wild fires and an investigation and arrest tied to a large New Jersey fire. We also talk with Zach McCune from Rolfe’s Henry about a case study and course that he and Shane Otto will be leading at ITC this year. Zach talks about an arson fraud case and how spoofing and masking technologies were used to frame an innocent mother and perpetuate an arson fraud.
December 2019 Podcast - December '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In under ten minutes this podcast offers a review of 2019 milestones and new content and features that you might have missed. We also give you a quick preview of what to expect in 2020.
November 2019 Podcast - November '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we learn about two new technology solutions being studied for fire investigation and then we visit with Lester Rich from the National Fire Academy
October 2019 Podcast - October '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this podcast episode, we’re back for the second part of the CCAI live burn training event — the actual burn and post-fire.
September 2019 Podcast - September '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we travel to San Luis Obispo where we were hosted by the California chapter of the IAAI (CCAI). We had a rare opportunity to experience what it’s like to set up this training and experience a wildland burn in California. There was a lot to learn!
August 2019 Podcast - August '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's CFITrainer.Net podcast is under 15 minutes and offers information about fires in electric vehicles and what you need to know.
May 2019 Podcast - May '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this month's CFITrainer.Net podcast, you'll hear from ATF Special Agent Chad Campanell, who will discuss how ATF can assist state and local fire investigators with training and investigations, ATF resources available to fire investigators, and ATF's support of CFITrainer.Net. Also, we summarize the final report of a multi-fatality fire at a senior living community in Pennsylvania, where ATF cooperated with state and local investigators to reach conclusions.
April 2019 Podcast - April '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. There are two new additions to CFITrainer.Net! A new podcast with Dan Madrzykowski from UL speaking about ventilation and Fire Flow, and a new module called “Fire Flow Analysis”.
March 2019 Podcast - March '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast includes updates from the IAAI related to the election, the upcoming ITC, and a new website specifically about evidence collection. After the updates, you will also hear some news stories related to fire investigation.
February 2019 Podcast - February '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month take 10 mins and hear some fire investigation and IAAI news.
January 2019 Podcast - January '19 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we’re looking back on some of the biggest issues in fire investigation in 2018.
November 2018 Podcast - November '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk with Jeff Pauley from the IAAI’s Health and Safety Committee. Jeff is an IAAI-CFI and the Chairman of the Health and Safety Committee. In this podcast, he talks about ways to reduce exposure to carcinogens related to fire investigation. By listening, you will learn about ways to reduce your risks, learn about new resources that are available to assist you, and research that is coming soon.
October 2018 Podcast - October '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month meet and learn about IAAI’s new Executive Director, Scott Stephens and plans for the future. After that interview, hear some wild stories from the national news related to fire investigation.
September 2018 News Roundup - September '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts.
Short stories related to fire investigation - June '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. Join us for a brief Podcast that includes five minutes of short stories related to fire investigation.
What you need to know about Arson Awareness week - April '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we welcome Tonya Hoover, the Superintendent of the National Fire Academy. Superintendent Hoover came to the NFA with more than 20 years of experience in local and state government, most recently as the California State Fire Marshal.
Growing pot and earning Bitcoin can start fires? - March '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this month’s podcast, hear a story about how the Bitcoin business might be causing fires? What similarities are there between Pot growers and now Bitcoin miners?
Training related to wildland fire investigation - February '18 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast highlights new training related to wildland fire investigation featuring an interview with Paul Way, and this year’s International Training Conference. We also have a pretty wild story before we wrap up. Birds starting fires?
Smart homes and digital data gathering issues - December '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this podcast, we discuss two topics on the technology and forensics cutting edge. Michael Custer of Kilgore Engineering, Inc. and retired Special Agent Tully Kessler share some knowledge and give us a taste of the classes that they will be presenting at ITC 2018.
Discussion with Writer Monica Hesse - September '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this podcast, you will hear some great news related to the IAAI and CFITrainer.Net and then we have an interview with Monica Hesse, the writer of a new book called "American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land."
Discussion with Criminalist- John DeHaan - June '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month on the CFITrainer.Net podcast, we talk to Criminalist, fire investigation expert and Author of "Kirk’s Fire Investigation", John DeHaan.
The Ghost Ship - May '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. For this podcast, we hear from a retired Captain of the Long Beach Fire Department, Pat Wills. Pat has been in the fire service for 37 years. He has been a leader and an investigator, now he is an educator speaking around the country about the importance of code enforcement.
Fast Podcast about ITC! - March '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk to David Bridges about what to expect at ITC and the training you won’t want to miss.
CFITrainer Podcast- A profile with an IAAI-CFI® - February '17 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. Join us this month for our podcast as we interview IAAI member and CFI, Jeff Spaulding from Middletown, Ohio. Jeff talks about his work in both the public and private sector and then he shares an interesting story about how a pacemaker is helping in an investigation.
An interview with Dr. James Quintiere - December '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In a discussion with Dr. James Quintiere, we learn about some of his work in fire sciences, a bit about his research, his opinions related to the World Trade Center investigation and what he thinks is important to fire investigation as a scholarly leader in our field.
Fire Investigation After the Flood Podcast - November '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk to Dan Hebert, an IAAI, CFI about "How Floods affect Fire Investigation."
September 2016 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk about the recent changes in the FAA's regulations for commercial and public sector use of UAS or "Drones".
August 2016 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk to Jessica Gotthold about the Seaside Heights fire in NJ from 2013
July 2016 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we talk to Fire Marshall, Ken Helms of the Enid, OK. Fire Department about his team winning the Fire Investigator of the Year award.
March 2016 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's fire investigation podcast from the IAAI's CFITrainer.Net focuses on the Youth Firesetting Information Repository and Evaluation System, which is called YFIRES for short.
February 2016 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - February '16 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's fire investigation podcast from the IAAI's CFITrainer.Net focuses on what you need to do to ensure the integrity of samples sent to the lab. A conversation with Laurel Mason of Analytical Forensic Associates.
September 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. Our podcast related to the legalization of recreational marijuana and its effect on fire investigation was one of the most popular podcasts ever on CFITrainer.Net. This month’s podcast is a follow up with one of our listeners from California who is an investigator doing training on this very topic.
August 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast is about NFIRS where we interview the Executive Director of The National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation, Jim Narva.
July 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. In this special edition of podcast we’re going to meet the newest IAAI Investigator of the Year, Andrea Buchanan.
May 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's Arson Investigator podcast from IAAI & CFITrainer interviews Jason McPherson from MSD Engineering to talk about some of these new technology tools.
April 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's Arson Investigator podcast from IAAI & CFITrainer interviews Dave Perry, a lawyer in Colorado discussing what fire chiefs, fire investigators, and the legal system are seeing in a state with legalized cannabis in regard to fire cause involving marijuana.
February 2015 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - Feb '15 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's Arson Investigator podcast from IAAI & CFITrainer interviews Mike Schlatman and Steve Carman who are both successful fire investigators and now business owners who have transitioned from the public to the private sector.
December 2014 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '14 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast interviews Steve Avato from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives explaining the process of elimination and how it is a critical part of the scientific method.
June 2014 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - June '14 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast interviews the 2014 Investigator of the Year.
April 2014 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '14 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast interviews with Don Robinson, Special Agent in Charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Currently stationed at the National Center for Explosives Training and Research, located at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
January 2014 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '14 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast takes a look inside the process of revising NFPA 921 and NFPA 1033.
October 2013 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '13 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast focuses on the fire research work of Underwriters’ Laboratories, better known as UL.
February 2013 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - February '13 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month we have an interview with George Codding who returned from a recent trip to Saipan and gives us a closer look at the international activities of the International Association of Arson Investigators
Mid Year 2012 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - Mid Year '12 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This podcast features a mid-year update on the IAAI’s new initiatives and ways for you to get more involved with the organization.
September 2012 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '12 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an in-depth look at the recent live-burn fire experiments exercise conducted on Governor’s Island, New York by the New York City Fire Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Underwriters Laboratory, and the Trust for Governor’s Island.
August 2012 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '12 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This is a special edition of the CFITrainer.Net podcast previewing the ITC 2013. There’s a new name for the Annual Training Conference from the IAAI now called the International Training conference.
April 2012 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '12 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with Chief Ernest Mitchell, Jr., the US Fire Administrator. Also we will discuss the upcoming ATC, Annual Training Conference, from the IAAI about to happen in Dover, Delaware.
March 2012 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '12 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with ATF Special Agent Billy Malagassi out of the Tulsa, OK Field Office about investigating fires in clandestine drug labs. We also report on NIST’s findings in the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire and IAAI’s Evidence Collection Practicum.
December 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features one of the presenters from this year’s IAAI ATC and see how a single photo broke the Provo Tabernacle fire case.
October 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with Deborah Nietch, the new Executive Director of IAAI.
July 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features an interview with Tom Fee discussing details of investigating wildland fires.
June 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - June '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month's podcast features a lot of exciting things that are happening at CFITrainer.Net
May 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month highlights the IAAI ATC in Las Vegas and the third installment in the "It Could Happen to You" series.
ATC 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - This podcast discusses the upcoming IAAI Annual Training Conference and National Arson Awareness Week.
April 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This podcast announces the release of the program, The First Responder’s Role in Fire Investigation, which teaches first responders how to make critical observations and take important scene preservation actions at a fire scene.
March 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features some of the instructors from the upcoming 2011 Annual Training Conference, to provide a preview of the courses they will be presenting.
February 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - February '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features an update on fire grants and an interview with Steve Austin
January 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '11 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features the release of the new edition of Fire Investigator: Principles and Practice to NFPA 921 and 1033, new flammability requirements from UL for pre-lit artificial Christmas trees and a growing fire problem in Dubai with factories turned into worker dormitories.
December 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast focuses on home candle fires, lightning punctures in gas piping, and respiratory diseases in the fire services.
November 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - November '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features research findings for structural stability in engineered lumber by UL, the ban on antifreeze in residential sprinkler systems, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation of Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tanks.
October 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features high-profile fire cases, why people leave stovetop cooking unattended and how new sensors under development may improve fire research.
September 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features how to use the ATF’s Bomb Arson Tracking System, IAAI Foundation grants, electrical fires and indoor marijuana cultivation.
August 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast focuses on social media as a fire investigation tool, a potential problem with modular home glued ceilings and research from Underwriters Laboratories on the effects of ventilation on structure fires.
July 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast is a roundtable on some of the latest research and technical activities that impact fire investigation, featuring Daniel Madrzykowski (moderator), Steven Kerber, and Dr. Fred Mowrer.
June 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - June '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast discusses career advancement, budget cuts and their impact on fire investigation, and the 2010-2016 ATF Strategic Plan.
ATC 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - Follow-up and Interviews from Orlando. Learn about the conference, hear what attendees had to say.
May 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. The second in our safety series called "It Could Happen To You." Our Long-Term Exposure roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal.
April 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. The first of our two-part safety series called "It Could Happen To You." Our roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal.
March 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features a conversation about legislative affairs affecting the fire service with Bill Webb, Executive Director of the Congressional Fire Services Research Institute.
February 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - February '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features our interview with a commercial kitchen’s fire expert about what you need to know when you work a commercial kitchen fire.
January 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features a look at preliminary research on corrosion caused by Chinese drywall, a new database focused on fires in historic buildings, a warning on blown-in insulation, and the launch of the new firearson.com web site.
December 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features cooking fires, highlights of the International Code Council’s Annual Meeting on code requirements, including requiring residential sprinkler systems, and an easy way to keep up with recalls from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
November 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - November '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features chimney fires, including recent news on surgical flash fires, a proposed national arsonist registry, lightning research and an innovation in personal protective equipment.
October 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast is devoted to Fire Prevention Week.
September 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features the relationship between climate conditions and fire risk, new research on formulating fireproof walls and the latest in IAAI news.
August 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month takes a look at the dangerous combination of summer heat and oily rags, the rise in vacant home fires, and preview research underway on Australia’s devastating "Black Saturday" brush fires.
July 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month features a look at outdoor grill fires, a fatal fire at a homeless camp in Southern NJ, new NIST research on human behavior during building fires, and IAAI news.
June 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - June '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features live reports from the 2009 IAAI Annual Training Conference held in May.
May 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This podcast is dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week.
April 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - April '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features the NFPA 921 chapter on marine fire investigations and the myth and reality of static electricity as a source of ignition.
March 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month focuses on the rise of the hybrid vehicle and what its unique engineering means for the investigation of vehicle fires, the rash of devastating arson fires in Coatesville, Pennsylvania from December 2008 to February 2009, and news from IAAI.
January 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast focuses on the deepening financial crisis in the US and arson for profit fires, how going green may pose a fire hazard and see how rope lighting may be a source of ignition, and IAAI’s Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony course.
December 2008 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '08 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features Christmas tree fires, changes to critical fire investigation publications, the weak economy’s impact on home fires, wind’s effect on structure fires, and ATC 2009.

Rod: Welcome to the CFITrainer.Net podcast. It's National Arson Awareness Week for 2021. And today we're talking about this year's theme, which is arson during civil unrest. The U.S. Fire Administration designates one week every year for National Arson Awareness Week, and it's a time when departments are asked to highlight critical action that first responders can take to combat arson crime. This year, the IAAI partnered with the USFA to bring the webinar arson during civil unrest and unjustifiable crime to the profession. Two IAAI members were on that panel. We have a link on this podcast page to this year's information page on National Arson Awareness Week. The IAAI thanks the the USFA and the other partners for their leadership on this issue.

So in support of National Arson Awareness Week as a part of the IAAI's commitment to driving the national conversation on fire investigation, arson crime and fire prevention, we're devoting today's podcast arson during civil unrest. With us to talk about this is ATF National Response Team supervisory special agent certified fire investigator Dixon Robin. With the NRT, agent Robin has responded to large fire and post-blast scenes across the country to conduct origin and cause investigations and assist in criminal investigations to determine if violations of federal and/or state law have occurred. Dixon Robin is also an IAAI CFI. Dixon, welcome to the podcast.

Dixon Robin: Thanks for having me, Rod.

Rod: First, just in case people aren't sure, can you tell the audience what the ATF National Response Team is and what it does?

Dixon Robin: ATF's National Response Team is a specialized group of investigators and subject matter experts put together by ATF to respond to larger and more catastrophic fire and explosion events around the country. And it's really designed to be a force multiplier. So in those instances where you have a very large event and maybe you have the know-how, but not the manpower or not the equipment, or maybe you need a few extra specialists like engineers or origin and cause guys, we can come in and partner with your agency and help decompress that investigation to a manageable level. Our goal is not to come in and take over an investigation nor to necessarily solve it, it'd be great if we could solve it while we're there, but really the goal is to muster all these resources and all these people and put them in one place and, like I said, decompress the investigation so that your agency with two or three people can drive it over the goal line the last two or three yards.

Rod: That's nice. And I'm sure that equipment and expertise is greatly appreciated. So unfortunately current events have led us to this discussion, but arson during civil unrest has a long history. Can you talk about the history of using arson as a weapon? Maybe an example or two?

Dixon Robin: Arson is first and foremost, a violent crime, a violent act. And I think that's where we almost have a fork in the road immediately. A lot of people don't realize how dangerous fire really is and the devastation and the violence of brings to people and their property. I like to say fire is so dangerous, you get a firetruck parked outside of your house and you could still die in that fire in your house. That's certainly true. I saw that firsthand in an arson homicide case here in Rochester, New York.

So fire is readily available, the things to make fire or to promote fire like gasoline or lighter fluid or readily available. They don't cost a lot of money. You don't have to go to school to understand it. And fire is used as a weapon quite often. In the civil disturbance arena, fire is very definitely used. It's been used consistently over the years, if you harken back to the '60s and the '70s and the disturbances then, and then up until recently, just numerous, numerous acts of arson. And some of those are directed at destroying property or making a statement, but some of those are also directed at hurting, maybe even trying to kill people. And that's why we take it so seriously.

Rod: Yeah. Well, we appreciate you being there. Can you talk about how you've been involved in the investigation of fires that occurred during some civil unrest, I understand that's in your recent past, and what it's like as an ATF member and team member when that begins, the investigation?

Dixon Robin: This summer, ATF engaged in numerous investigations throughout the country, cities all over the place, investigating fires related to the civil unrest, the use of destructive devices like Molotov cocktails, explosives like fireworks and even pipe bombs. And in my instance with the National Response Team, we were activated in several cities, Chicago, Kenosha, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, we stood by in Louisville and Portland, we were all over the map. But significantly, the Minneapolis and Saint Paul missions were incredible. I mean, incredible amount of devastation, the atmosphere was fairly tense. And the operations that we conducted were unusual to say the least. And so in that instance, out in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, we did over 150 fire scenes in a very short period of time in an environment that at times was hostile to us. And at times we didn't have a lot of resources or manpower because of the obvious tensions that were going on in the community.

And we were able to complete that mission. Thankfully nobody got hurt and we were able to make plenty of arrests, and there are ongoing active, many, many, I would say in the hundreds of active investigations, ATF investigations are still going forward at this late date. So just because the riots are over and just because the damage and devastation is getting cleaned up, it doesn't mean we're stopping. We have many targets that we're going after, people that frankly needs to answer to what they did during that time as to lighting fires and throwing devices around that sort of thing.

Rod: So how do the different investigative agencies cooperate on these cases? How is it typically structured?

Dixon Robin: Right. So it is a very much a partnership. There's no other way to do it. There's no one agency in this world that can work alone in handle these sort of events. And when I say partnership, it's a true partnership. Everybody gets that seat at the table. I know it sounds cliche, especially coming from a federal guy, but we are not, for example, we're not native Minneapolin, people from Minneapolis, we don't know the lay of the land, we don't know the backstory to some of the stuff, we don't know all the resources that are in play. So when we're out there in Minneapolis, not only do we have detectives from the police department, but we have their intel officers embedded with us. We have the county intel unit embedded with us. We have all the ATF assets, but then we have all sorts of fire investigation unit personnel assigned to the team.

And when I say team, I mean, we talk about the National Response Team, but the team really is all those agencies. We had eight or nine different agencies working with us in Minneapolis. And we were just one piece of that very big picture when it came to the civil unrest. We work very closely, for example, with FBI, the U.S. Marshal Service was our protective unit. So when we went in to actually investigate these fire scenes, we had a cover team from U.S. Marshal Special Operation Group to actually provide security and provide a perimeter for us. And there were times where they told us, "Hey, crowd's coming our way. We need to go," and we had to stop what we were doing and leave our scene. So it's very much a team effort, and it's very much geared to provide answers to those agencies that need an answer.

So obviously the Minneapolis police and fire departments need to solve these crimes. We need to provide them with the wherewithal to prosecute those crimes as well, as they go through this very difficult and sort of transitional period in their history, as you can imagine. The FBI had a slightly different mission that we coordinated with them on in terms of looking at broader picture and national scope of things. And we had just kind of a two-way street of flowing information and investigative efforts so that they could slide something to us that would be relevant to our investigations, and if we found something we'd slide something to them as well. So at the end of the day, it is a team effort. ATF maybe played the largest role in the arson part of it, but there are many other things going on as we're investigating these things. And all those agencies kind of overlap, and at some point we are just in a big circle providing each other with information and resources as needed.

Rod: Well, I know, as a country, we're glad you guys are doing that. I'm sort of surprised, and maybe I should be, it's sort of interesting to me that you have a protective detail that you said, from the U.S. Marshals.

Dixon Robin: Yeah. So we ourselves are armed and could protect ourselves to some degree. We also have, ATF has its own specialized tactical teams, special response team. But as you can imagine, we are in the midst of riots around the country and resources are thin everywhere. And so we had the Marshal Service on the ground available. We went for it, there's no reason to hesitate. There's no sort of a rivalry or territory when it comes to the agencies. And they did a wonderful job. I really loved having them there because we could concentrate on these fire scenes. And again, there were places where during the fire investigations, we were confronted by crowds and marches would head our way. And I don't know if they were necessarily marching towards us, but... We can come back and do our investigation when we need to, there's no need for us to be there to inflame anything or to get people even more angry or for whatever it is.

Rod: Yeah.

Dixon Robin: But I can tell you that the... I think it was better safe than sorry. We never were horribly threatened by anybody, but every now and then we had people yelling at us and throwing stuff at us. Just the way it was there.

Rod: Yeah. You could have a gun, but if you're bent over with a shovel and you're digging around, it's probably-

Dixon Robin: You got it. Exactly.

Rod: ... nice to have somebody having your back. So give me a little bit of behind the scenes. Because I often think about the amount of travel that I've heard folks that are involved in the NRT do. So take us a little behind the scenes of, you get a phone call, you used to probably get a page?

Dixon Robin: Yeah. And I remember at one point being proud when they issued pagers to us, that's how long I've been on the job. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.

Rod: Pagers are still cool.

Dixon Robin: Yeah. Just roll with that. Keep going with it. Yeah. We're designed... The core group of our team is designed to be very responsive. So I've flown out as late as midnight, I get a call and I tried to hit a flight at midnight to get somewhere by early the next morning. But we are designed to be on scene in some shape or fashion within a few hours. Sometimes the bulk of the team won't arrive for maybe 12 hours, maybe 18 hours. But time is of the essence if only because... our partners are calling us because they need resources.

The one resource we have on the federal side is time and money. Most local agencies don't have the luxury of those resources. They might have some of it, but at some point the local arson unit is going to have to go out and investigate the three fires that happened the night after we got there. And then the seven fires that happened the day or two after we got there, and then the two foot car fires that happened three days after we got there, life does not stop in these jurisdictions. And so I always make it a point to get our team there as quickly as possible.

So we're designed, we're on calls, the call comes in, the approval process within ATF is very simple. A local agency asks ATF, "Hey, can we have this resource?" We ask an ATF CFI to go up there to the fire scene just to take a look at it and make sure that, yeah, in fact, our NRT would be of assistance. And then once that happens, it's literally two phone calls within the chain of command and we're out the door. I page up our guys, tell folks to get a flight as soon as possible, where to fly into. And then we worry about the logistics as we're traveling out there in terms of where we're going to stay. But we're prepared to go out there for two, three weeks if we need to and like I said, decompressed that fire scene or that fire investigation.

I'd love to say that we're just waiting with bated breath. No, we're doing other work in the meantime. But if a call comes in, we're designed to drop whatever we're doing, everything's packed, ready to go, and we're going to go out the door.

Rod: So you've talked about some of the unique considerations, dealing with the civil unrest. Are other things that investigating these fires tied to civil unrest different from a typical fire that you might investigate?

Dixon Robin: Yeah. I think there's a few things that makes them a little unique. And first off is that most of these fires are long duration, they for the most part tend to be black hole fires, because of the unrest, the fire department response is slower, a lot slower due to obvious reasons, they're overtaxed, may not be safe for them to go in. So we do have some fires that are smaller fires that just peter out, but most of the fires are pretty large and destructive sort of fire scenes. What we focused on, frankly, was the going in there and trying to find evidence of the use of an incendiary device, like Molotov cocktail, trying to find containers or something related to ignitable liquids, and then trying to find a DVR or security camera hardware. Much of what we did was solved, or much of what we solved I should say, really circled around video evidence.

As you imagine, there weren't a lot of... there weren't many cooperative witnesses out there that wanted to provide us with information, but if we could get the cameras from the store or we get the surrounding videotape or, frankly, social media was just a phenomenal help to us. That's where we were able to piece things together and track folks. And so in that sense, it was unique. Maybe the focus was less on doing a three or four day scene. We didn't have that luxury. With so many fire scenes, we were able to process those scenes efficiently, but it had to move quickly. And so we had smaller teams on there. And again, part of our focus really was on what are those things that are going to help us identify somebody who committed this act and provide us with evidence to maybe even prosecute them.

Rod: I can imagine with cell phones and camera phones and everything today, just dealing with the mass of video. It used to be that I would talk to you guys, it was like, "Hey, it was great. There was a camera mounted," and now I get this feeling like you guys are dealing with potentially hundreds or thousands of sources of video. Does that get cumbersome?

Dixon Robin: Yeah, it's insane how much video there was. And at least in these particular instances. And I mean, we are still literally going through video. I have a database with about 43,000 entries in it that we're still going over. These are social media clips, things people have turned in and so forth. At the end of the day, it is very labor intensive. You could sit there and have people watching and looking for things, but then at the same time, if you key in on one individual at one fire scene, you want to try to tie that individual into other fire scenes, potentially, if that's what they're doing. And so, for example, in Saint Paul, my ATF counterpart over there was leading a team and they were able to track one individual who's good for six to eight fires, but that was a concerted effort, like a targeted video review effort.

And at the same time, now you have to look for other people doing other acts. And so it's labor intensive, it's manpower intensive. You've got to have some intel folks who know how to draw down that video. And then at the end of the day, that video is all great, but if you don't preserve it, if you don't somehow turn it into evidence, you can't present it as evidence and then maybe you won't be able to prosecute that guy. So you've got to on the backend, sit out there and ask these companies to preserve their footage and then fight to get that footage and so on and so forth. So there's a lot of moving parts to that video piece of it, but it really is, I think particularly in an urban area, that is a large focus of these investigations.

Rod: Yeah. I can imagine. I mean, it just sounds like a huge file management job.

Dixon Robin: Yeah.

Rod: Just thinking about, you used to go out and get VHS tapes that were at slow speed.

Dixon Robin: Right. And that's how you know. And when we were out there in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, we called it the DVR hospital and we had a bunch of digital forensic guys, and we were just bringing them recovered DVRs from burnt out fire scenes, every half hour new one would come in and these guys are set up to see if they could recover anything. If it had to be sent off to a clean room, we have a contract with a company that has a clean room that can actually extract data off of fire burnt up computers and DVRs and stuff. And so, much like, you remember Cheers, they had Nick Fratelli's TV hospital, we called it the DVR hospital. We had great success with, in real time, just pulling video off that stuff and trying to get a grip or get some leads generated and push out investigators on it.

Rod: Good to hear. Sounds like a big job.

Dixon Robin: Yeah.

Rod: So Dixon, could you talk about, without getting into things that are too sensitive, I mean, there had to be some things that were unique to these investigations tied to these events? Can you talk a little bit about the kinds of things you were finding out there?

Dixon Robin: Yeah. Yep. So some of the unique aspects, and this centered around maybe the evidence that we were dealing with, and so we obviously wanted to seek out any sort of DVR recording devices, particularly in these larger stores where there're multiple cameras capturing activity. And what we found in several locations was a near surgical removal of DVR's drives and those sorts of things, by people who clearly understood computer hardware, computer hardware architecture, design and engineering. And we found this in multiple locations. And so I can't tell you what that was directly related to because we had, in addition to the unrest, there were groups of people taking advantage of that by using the unrest as a cover to go ahead and steal, and in a very kind of methodical and systematic way. And so there were particular stores or chains that were hit all in the same fashion, we assumed by potentially the same group of people in a very kind of quick and surgical manner.

Rod: What about like... Oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Dixon Robin: No, I was just going to say that it's critical to have somebody available to understand how these systems are set up, designed, how they're constructed, and then whether you had somebody in there surgically removing these items. And listen, what's the value of that? The item's gone. Well, who knows, maybe that person left the thumbprint behind, maybe that person left DNA on the wires that they pulled, whatever it may be. So you have to be cognizant of the evidentiary value of things even if they're missing. There's still might be something left behind that you have to process.

Rod: And as always, it's always amazed me how much is left behind after a, what you'd call a black hole fire, but as far as DNS, fingerprints, those kinds of things.

Dixon Robin: Yeah. We had a... We processed the Minneapolis third precinct, if you remember the police station there that was overrun, a three three-story building with a basement. I'll just tell you as a law enforcement person, it was devastating to see that, to be inside there. It just left me with a horrible feeling. But obviously we had a job to do, and we were going to process that scene and try to render answers. And if somebody needed to go to jail over it, that was our mission. And so while we're in there, we had numerous, numerous set fires in there, but we also collected numerous incendiary devices. So ones had operated and functioned, other ones that hadn't functioned, we were able to look at those devices and try to tie them back to similarly made devices at other locations and process those for all the traditional evidence that you normally would at a scene where maybe if you only have one of those devices. So we were looking for fingerprints and DNA as well.

And we did, we were able to extract that sort of evidence. And obviously I can't provide a ton of detail about that because those cases are ongoing, but those are some very critical pieces of evidence that we were able to recover.

Rod: What other advice do you have for fire investigators about what they can do now if they become part of one of these investigations of a fire that occurred during civil unrest? Are there ways they could prepare for that in advance? Any hints?

Dixon Robin: Yeah. I think what you want to do is, before it even happens is get with your local police intelligence unit or officer, maybe have one within your fire investigation unit, you will find that the social media exploitation, we have all these fancy terms for it, but just finding stuff on social media is going to be critical. And it's out there. You just have to be timely enough to get it. You have to understand where it is, and you have to understand how to bring it down. But even in these events where you didn't need our team... Up here in Rochester, we had some civil unrest recently, and the unit up here, the police and fire department guys along with an ATF agent, there were three of them, they just plowed through the social media with the local intel group and made several arrests.

The first thing to do is to understand that process and get with the people who are experts on social media exploitation. The second thing is to figure out how you're going to respond. At the time of the incident is not the time to sit down and make the plan. You want to have some pre-planning meetings. And again, from the fed side, we just love meetings. I know it's cliche, but it's really worth the effort. If you get everybody sitting around a table and just say, "Hey, when the big one hits, who's going to do what? Who are the shot callers, who are the decision makers and who's responsible for which piece of investigation?" That's going to save you so much trouble and heartache when this stuff breaks loose. Because when it breaks loose, everybody's losing their head, tensions are high, everybody's amped up, and it's just easier to operate when you have an understanding in place when you're not meeting people for the first time in the middle of a command post when things are breaking down.

Rod: Yeah. Well, it's sort of like you guys have always said, sharing business cards at the scene is not the... it shouldn't be the first time.

Dixon Robin: Right. Right.

Rod: So ultimately I think it's sometimes forgotten, that what you all do is not just about putting away the bad guys, the bad girls. So with fire investigation really being about fire prevention, what have we learned about investigation of these recent incidents of arson during civil unrest that we can use to prevent incidents in the future? What's your advice to local communities from what you've seen?

Dixon Robin: Yeah. I mean, I think that the businesses and communities that tried to secure their facilities and maybe secure the merchandise or the stock, they fared a lot better than those that didn't. I know not everybody's made of money, so there's probably a limit to what businesses can do, but certainly securing their locations and removing the fuels basically, is going to save you a lot of heartache and a lot of time. What we found in many of these arsons was that nobody had to bring anything with them. In fact, since a lot of these stores sold lighter fluid, for example, people didn't even have to bring ignitable liquids with them, let alone any fuel. And so, that's one thing that people can do if they have enough notice enough where with all, it's to secure their location and get stuff out.

Rod: Some good pieces of advice. What am I missing? What other things do you think, or have we covered it all, do you think that we should share with folks this week?

Dixon Robin: Well, in terms of the civil unrest fires, I think that what you'll find is that there may be a small group of bad actors within a very large group of protestors, and that a lot of these folks may be driven by their politics, or we found a lot of folks that I think we're just having a grand old time, frankly. And so, we don't really get into the motive piece of it as much as just trying to track individuals. And you may find that you're one guy here is going to be over at another fire or maybe over at another fire and so on and so forth. So the goal is to spend time and understand that during the civil unrest, you're going to be expected to be operational and provide answers, but these are long-ball investigations.

Here we are a year later, and as I said, we've got 43,000 more video clips to look at. In Minneapolis we have new targets that are being identified and accepted for prosecution. Investigations have to continue. So it's a commitment to keep those investigations going. And so the agencies shouldn't think that once the riots are over that we can go back to our normal MO, you still have work to do, maybe a lot of work. And you can't be afraid to ask for help because, again, no one agency, my agency, FBI, whoever it is, no one agency can do it alone. It's too much work.

Rod: Well, I'm glad you're helping to work to hold these people responsible. And thanks for talking with us today. It's certainly a timely topic. And I think our audience will appreciate the opportunity to hear what you've had to say. So thanks very much, Dixon.

Dixon Robin: Thank you. My pleasure, Rod.

Rod: Now some news from the IAAI. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in the spring of 2020, training opportunities in fire investigation were significantly impacted. The conferences and in-person classes that many professionals rely on to build their knowledge, stay in compliance with NFPA 1033, and maintain their credentials were canceled. Because CFITrainer.Net has been delivering training online for 20 years, we were able to fill some of the gap immediately, and we're grateful to have had that role. Fire investigation organizations quickly explored ways to take their in-person classes virtual, and platforms like Zoom took off in an instant. Over the last year, the IAAI has had tremendous success offering its in-person classes virtually. Offering this live instruction with a recorded version has made the training accessible to a wider range of professionals who previously weren't able to travel to in-person classes. And it's decreased the cost of attending classes for those who had come in person in the past.

Moving forward, the IAAI is resuming its live in person classes as COVID restrictions in the local jurisdiction permit. At the same time, the IAAI will continue to offer live classes virtually so anyone anywhere can attend many classes from their computer. This benefits the fire investigation profession, IAAI membership, and the wider community of professionals who work in the investigation of fires. To that end, the IAAI has built out a new capability on CFITrainer.Net to deliver virtual live classes and events permanently. Previously, virtual live classes and events were done as one-offs with a separate testing component on the CFITrainer platform. Now the live classes and events are being delivered through CFITrainer.Net, integrated with Zoom for delivery, and the IAAI's member platform for registration with certificate testing, post event resources, class replays are all available on CFITrainer.Net.

Everything is now access through CFITrainer.Net using your existing login. When you attend a live class and pass the skills challenge test to earn your certificate of completion, that class is automatically added to your CFITrainer.Net transcript. If you register, but have to miss the class, you simply log in after the class to watch the recorded version, then take the certificate test and access the post-event resources. Bringing live classes and events under the CFITrainer.Net umbrella gives you one central place to access all your online training, whether it's prerecorded modules, live classes and events, resources, or this podcast. It also makes replays and post event resources easily available. And you'll have the certificate and transcript entry to prove your completion of the live class and event alongside everything else you've taken at CFITrainer.

The live classes and events feature is rolling out this month, so you'll now see live classes and events to register for popping up in your available programs. You'll recognize them because of the banner on the classes thumbnail image that says register now. Click the program to register then log into CFITrainer.Net at the time of the class to see the link to join. After the class, you'll see a post event activities page where you can take the skills challenge test to earn your certificate and view any resources your instructor has made available to class attendees. We'll be kicking off the launch of live classes and events with a free class on May 12th, about "How to Get the Most Out of CFITrainer.Net". So keep an eye out for that in your available programs list and click the entry to register.

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