The IAAI and CFITrainer.Net present these podcasts with a focus on issues relating to fire investigation. With expertise from around the world, the International Association of Arson Investigators produces these podcasts to bring more information and electronic media to fire investigators looking for training, education and general information about fire investigation. Topics include recent technologies, issues in the news, training opportunities, changes in laws and standards and any other topic that might be of interest to a fire investigator or industry professional affected by fire. Information is presented using a combination of original stories and interviews with scientists, leaders in fire investigation from the fire service and the law enforcement community.
<p>Welcome to the IAAI’s November, 2009 CFITrainer.Net podcast. This month’s podcast features chimney fires and includes recent news on surgical flash fires, a proposed national arsonist registry, lightning research and an innovation in personal protective equipment. </p>
<p>With fall soon to turn to winter in the northern hemisphere, many people have begun using their heating systems and fireplaces for warmth. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there are 25,000 chimney fires every year causing 30 fatalities and $120 million in losses. What should the fire investigator know about chimney fires and how to assess a chimney as a possible fire cause? We turned to Dale Deraps. He’s the President of Advanced Chimney Techniques for a closer look at chimney fires. Dale, thanks for being with us today.</p>
<p>DALE DERAPS: Very good.</p>
<p>INTERVIEWER: What are the potential causes of chimney related fires?</p>
<p>DALE DERAPS: Well we’re going to break it down into two main groups. You’ve got fires that happen internally to the chimney system and that would be combustible creosote buildup. In some localities you might have an oil soot fire. In other areas it might go back to like animal debris, leaves, straw, nesting debris and that type of material that may have been drug into the chimney system by the lack of a screened chimney cap and animal intrusion. That would cover fires internal to the chimney.</p>
<p>The other aspect would be fires that occur outside the chimney. You have a tremendous release of heat when these combustibles burn. If the chimney systems are adequately thick enough and built basically according to code, it hopefully has enough thermal mass there to absorb that heat and not have it char combustibles around it and ignite, but often we have birth defects, which would be improper construction, and there may be thin spots or embedded lumber that can catch fire, and the other could be just deterioration in an old system built substandard to today’s standards and subsequent pyrophoric conditioning of the lumber around the chimney system.</p>
<p>In a chimney fire you can have your initial fire and based on how thick the chimney is it can be two, three, four hours later when the final temperature rise occurs on the exterior surface and pyrophorically conditioned lumber can catch fire. Often the fire departments who will come put out a fire, go back to the station and then it will kindle in the attic, oh, several hours later because your heat will continue to build on the outside of the system, but those are the main issues there.</p>
<p>INTERVIEWER: What should the investigator look for when considering the chimney as a possible fire cause?</p>
<p>DALE DERAPS: The first thing you would look for - often chimney fires will leave evidence in the form of what we’d call a third stage creosote and we actually classify the soot and creosote in the chimneys first stage, second stage, third stage. First stage creosote would be just a fine soot that would basically show normal operation and a complete combustion and very little combustible material left in the chimney. The second stage is a glazed creosote. Basically, that’s non-combusted volatiles, tar fog and such that comes off the wood burning process basically done in an oxygen starved situation and a low temperature fire where you’re sweating off a lot of the combustibles that collect inside the chimney system, and the third stage to look for is the actual combusted creosote. It’s been burnt, it’s released its heat and if you’ve even seen these kid’s Fourth of July snakes, you light them on the sidewalk, this is going to be very similar. It’s a black foamed material that’s very lightweight and often multicolored, but it’s definite evidence of a chimney fire. </p>
<p>Additionally you might look for cracked tile. If it’s a stainless steel liner system or a Class A chimney you would look for buckling in the liner. Perhaps a stainless steel cap or any chimney cap could be discolored, and you might see a definite burn pattern on the underside of the cap, and sometimes the screening will actually melt away. Chimney fires can get hot upwards of 2000 degrees and will actually melt steel, and aluminum chimney caps could evaporate under these kind of temperature conditions. </p>
<p>INTERVIEWER: What special investigative steps should the investigator take in the case of a possible chimney related fire? </p>
<p>DALE DERAPS: The first thing we will do is try to get as many pictures as possible. You’ll never go wrong taking plenty of pictures and having that documentation. Once we’ve made our observations about the external and the internal situation, often with the chimney fire the foamed creosote will like foam inward and can sometime actually block off a chimney. Then we would clean the chimney and get all the debris down to the bottom and get it pulled out to be able to inspect for cracking is going to be your primary issue. But also need to look around the outside of the flue and crawl through the attic and look for charred or embedded lumber. Oftentimes we’ll find lumber that’s been pyrophorically conditioned to the point of, just right to the point of ignition, which makes it particularly dangerous that the second or third occurrence that they might have could much more easily start a fire.</p>
<p>Once they’ve achieved those kind of temperatures, you lower the combustion temperature on any of the combustibles that are built too close. Almost nobody in the past has provided the proper clearances to combustibles around a masonry chimney. Often the lumber is right up against it and you go through one or two of these occurrences, you can dramatically lower the next ignition temperature. So they become increasingly dangerous.</p>
<p>When it comes to metal chimney systems, the Class A and even Class B systems, again, anything charred, but the most common mistake is from the original installers would be lack of attention to providing the proper clearances to combustibles, and the other thing to look for would be missing attic insulation shields are a big one in this area. In original construction they would skip that attic insulation shield and blow sometimes even cellulose insulation up against the chimney, or lack of fire stops where attic insulation can fall from the attic on down to the top on top of a fireplace or into an area. Insulation traps heat, so always be looking for proper fire stops, spacers or attic insulation shields because this could be a big issue. </p>
<p>Another big issue is the type of equipment. Prior to 1986 or 1987, fireplace equipment, wood stoves, wood furnaces, were not required to have any secondary combustion to burn smoke. Anything built passed 1987 or 1988 in terms of an appliance should have a functioning system to burn the smoke, be it a catalytic combustor or some scheme built by the manufacturer into the appliance to burn smoke. Many, many, many of the manufacturers for a period of time used catalytic combustors in their wood stoves, their wood fireplaces or their fireplace inserts. The catalytic combustors only had about a five year lifespan, and they’re expensive to replace and the housings warp. After 15 years many of the homeowners out there will just skip it, I don’t need this catalytic combustor. </p>
<p>Well, you go back to the dirty burning high creosote creating situation that is going to set up the stage for the chimney fire, so one thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at these occurrences, something is out of whack. The fire’s burning, too oxygen starved, too much fuel, not enough air, not enough temperature, they’re holding it down, too big a stove for the area that they are attempting to heat so they keep it strangled down and create a lot of rich smoke. There’s usually a cause that can set the stage, but then if the chimney fires occurred and actually got out of the structure, you’re going to look for more likely a birth defect, a bricklayer who didn’t have saw in his box when he was building it and left an embedded rafter or something on that order.</p>
<p>INTERVIEWER: Thanks for your time and contribution to CFITrainer.Net, Dale, and now, a look at recent news in fire investigation. </p>
<p>Surgical flash fires are in the headlines with the death of an Illinois woman from severe burns sustained on the operating table. 500 to 600 of these fires occur every year and the cause is typically an electrical tool igniting the oxygen rich environment under a surgical drape. Although the incidents of surgical fires decreased in the 1970’s when safer anesthetics replaced older ones like ether, 100 percent oxygen is still used with patients. There is a rise in concern over these fires because of the increased use of the electrosurgical devices and the replacement of cloth hospital drapes with drapes made of disposable synthetic fabric that is more flammable. </p>
<p>In other news, a bill proposing a national arsonist registry passed the U.S. House of Representatives on September 30, 2009 called Managing Arson through Criminal History or MATCH Act, House Resolution 1727 of the 111th Congress establishes guidelines and incentives for states to establish criminal arsonist and criminal bomber registries and to require the Attorney General to establish a national criminal arsonist and criminal bomber registry program and for other purposes. As of the recording of this podcast, the bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The bill’s progress can be tracked on Govtrack.US using the search term HR1727. </p>
<p>The Lightning Safety Alliance has undertaken a research project to learn more about the ways that lightning enters and damages homes and buildings. LSA is soliciting information on lightning incidents, fires and damage from the public and emergency services professionals. Findings will be presented to the NFPA’s technical committee on lightning protection. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.lightningsafetyalliance.com" target="_blank">lightningsafetyalliance.com</a>. </p>
<p>Researchers at James Cook University in Australia have developed the cool me vest. The vest is similar in design to chemical cold packs found in first aid kits. By cooling the body’s core under heat conditions, the vest is designed to reduce heat stress and shorten the recovery period for fire responders. Although the vest is single use, it is made of recyclable material. </p>
<p>Finally, let’s close with some news from the IAAI. The IAAI Board of Directors just met at their midyear meeting in Metairie, Louisiana and they endorsed the utilization of the ATF’s BATS, the Bomb Arson Tracking System. BATS is a secure web based information sharing system that serves as a direct link for federal, state and local agencies to the data maintained by the U.S. Bomb Center or USBDC. BATS serves as the national sole repository maintained by statute and attorney general directive for information pertaining to bombing, explosives and arson incidents. </p>
<p>Using internet connected computers, fire investigators can easily document any fire or explosion using standardized language and share information with other investigators. Fire investigators are able to capture details of arson and bomb cases including the area of origin or device placement, fire descriptors, casualties, dollar losses, collateral crimes, device components and descriptions of how a device was delivered while maintaining absolute operational security. Investigators can use BATS to perform trend analysis, generate statistical reports and compare incidents for similarities in motives, device components, suspects and crime methodologies for possible investigative leads nationwide.</p>
<p>IAAI has been awarded a grant of $962,820 to continue the growth of the IAAI distance learning network. Phase 6 of this program will make possible additional class offerings on the CFITrainer.Net website, continuation of these monthly podcasts for fire investigators and expand the new training tools such as the skill assessment practicums and the fire investigation technician professional credential. Upon recommendation of their site selection chair, David Sneed, the IAAI Board of Directors selected Dover Downs, Delaware as the site for the 2012 annual training conference. After the 2010 conference in Orlando, Florida and the 2011 conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Board of Directors focused on a site in the northeastern United States to facilitate access and attendance from a large fire investigation community in that region. Information on this year’s ATC in Orlando can be found on the IAAI website, <a href="http://www.Firearson.com" target="_blank">Firearson.com</a>. </p>
<p>That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll see you again next month</p>
This program provides a primer on accreditation, certification, and certificates for fire investigation training.
A fire occurred on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, in The Station nightclub at 211 Cowesett Avenue, West Warwick, Rhode Island.
Arc Mapping, or Arc Fault Circuit Analysis, uses the electrical system to help reconstruct a scene, providing investigators with a means of determining the area of a fire’s origin.
This module introduces basic electrical concepts, including: terminology, atomic theory and electricity, Ohm’s Law, Joule’s Law, AC and DC power.
A fire occurred on the evening of June 18, 2007, in the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, SC that resulted in the deaths of nine fire fighters.
This module looks at the many ways fire investigators enter and grow in the profession through academia, the fire service, law enforcement, insurance, and engineering.
This module will present a description of the IAAI organization.
This module takes a closer look at four of the most commonly-reported accidental fire causes according to "NFPA Fact Sheet.
This program brings three highly experienced fire investigators and an attorney with experience as a prosecutor and civil litigator together for a round table discussion.
The program discusses the basics of digital photography for fire investigators as well as software and editing procedures for digital images intended as evidence.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in civil proceedings such as fire loss claims and product defect lawsuits.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in criminal proceedings.
This module covers the foundation of DNA evidence: defining, recognizing, collecting, and testing.
This program provides a practical overview of how to perform the baseline documentation tasks that occur at every scene.
This module will discuss the techniques and strategies for conducting a proper science-based fire scene investigation and effectively presenting an investigator’s findings in court as an expert witness.
This module presents critical electrical safety practices that every fire investigator should implement at every scene, every time.
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.