Takes Part in ATF Recertification Training

Every year, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and its certified fire investigators come together for mandatory re-certification training to hone their skills as investigators working to save lives with science and practical applications. The 2008 recertification took place in Wilmington, N. C., and the ATF invited the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and their production team from Stonehouse Media to help gather and build content for

The training included studying live burns created to mimic or reproduce actual fire scenarios. The ultimate goal was to learn and better investigate fire scenes in a controlled environment, and improve fire investigators skills at determining the origin and cause of fires.

This event is usually only for ATF agents, but by permitting the IAAI and its production team to
participate and capture footage in high-definition, members will have the unique opportunity to view much of the footage in future programs including A Ventilation Focused Approach to the Impact of Building Structures and Systems on Fire Development module.

The value of live burning is often not realized until fire investigators review and compare the footage
and the data recorded by instrumentation.  The combination of science, data measurement and recording, and experience continues to help build on the foundation of knowledge surrounding the complex dynamics of fire. 

The observation and recording of temperatures, imagery and other data can turn a hypothesis into a meaningful roadmap to finding the truth when a fire investigation occurs. With limited resources nationwide, it is rare that any fire investigator or other law enforcement officer has the time to complete this type of fire experiment. 

“We are not here to learn to burn, we are burning to learn,” said John Comery, ATF Agent from Portland, Oregon. Comery’s statement addresses the importance of fire science and research, and how hypotheses always require testing and controlled situations. 

With the help of the city of Wilmington, N.C., the Wilmington Fire Department hosted and supported the training for the ATF.  The Fire Department and Wilmington EMS received training as they worked together with the ATF in this combined effort.

The ATF Director, Michael J. Sullivan also visited the recertification training site to emphasize the importance of training to the ATF and that is a key priority for all fire investigators now and in the future.

The ultimate goal of the training and education is to support prevention efforts and increase prosecution of arson if a crime has been committed. In today’s environment, federal agencies need to work smart and take advantage of every resource available, while working with and supporting local and state authorities. 

To learn more about recertification and training opportunities, visit

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