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An investigation is conducted to determine the origin, cause, and other factors that may have contributed to the ignition and growth of a fire. Fire investigators conduct an investigation to compile data and analyze the information related to fires and explosions.
Investigation data is used to:
Reduce loss of life and property
Determine if a fire was intentionally set
Provide a basis of fact for after-fire legal processes
Develop public education programs
Develop codes and standards
Investigator's Job: The Systematic Approach
The investigator's job is to determine the origin and cause of every fire after ruling out all possibilities of how and where the fire started. A systematic approach is used in processing every fire scene.
If possible, the investigator will document a fire scene with still images or video prior to the extinguishment of the fire.
When the fire scene is secure and safe for entry, the investigator observes and documents the scene while going from the area of least burn to the area of most burn.
The scene is secured during the entire investigation process. Once complete, the scene is released back to the property owner. If the fire is in a large occupancy or a multi-alarm fire, TVF&R utilizes investigation teams, dividing responsibilities such as:
Interviews of witnesses, bystanders, and first-in firefighters
Processing the physical scene by examining the structure or scene for fire patterns and evidence
Documenting the scene with photographs and diagrams
Preserving and collecting evidence by maintaining the "Chain of Evidence" so it is clearly documented who has handled it, when, and why
Feeding information to the Public Information Officers or acting in their behalf with both television and newspaper media
After the investigation is complete, the investigator is responsible for releasing the occupancy back to the property owners. The investigator may work with insurance adjusters and private investigators throughout the investigation.
Lastly, the investigator submits a report to their supervisor containing all information regarding the investigation in standard format. The investigator may be called on to testify in either a civil or criminal case with his or her conclusions concerning the investigation.
An investigator will spend a week at a time on duty from Wednesday to Wednesday and is on-call 24 hours-per-day, 7 days-a-week during their week of rotation.
The Incident Commander is responsible for requesting the response of a fire investigator to the fire scene as per TVF&R's policy. The applicable criteria includes: arson fires, suspicious fires, undetermined causes, fatalities, fire injuries, total loss (excluding out buildings, sheds, etc), fires in institutional or educational occupancies, or as deemed necessary by the Incident Commander.
In addition a fire investigator is automatically dispatched to all working fires.
The investigators receive response requests via Nextel. The dispatcher may also call the investigator at home via telephone.
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