Incendiary fire analysis and investigation
Incendiary fire is defined by the law as fire that is caused by a person who deliberately and maliciously sets it on to a building or any other property. The person is guilty of the crime of arson. He is an arsonist and the crime is punishable by the law. Fire incendiary, time analysis and investigation is therefore done to determine if the fire case was either deliberately set or it was just an accidental fire. (David R. R & John J. O 1997)
In the past, most of the fire cases were investigated by traditional methodology of fire investigation. This method was not sufficient enough because it did not put down the guidelines to be used in the fire investigation. Fire being one of the difficult cases to be investigated, needs to have a set guidelines on how to perform the investigation because unlike all other criminal cases, fire destroys all the evidence with it hence it has to be investigated thoroughly. (David R. R & John J. O 1997)
For instance in the US the law states that if there is a case on fire, the insurers of the property must carry out investigation on the cause of fire before it is denied or classified as a fire incendiary. (Icove J &, John D. 2004)
The insurers must do this to establish if there is any fraudulent claims by the insured which are against the policies that were signed between the insurer and the insured. The insurer can contract with other criminal investigation departments to investigate on the same. However, the contract should be done with carefulness because if the investigator is a private company they should be licensed to do so else the insurer will be held responsible. (Icove J &, John D. 2004)
The law also states that the insurer and the insured can cooperate willingly to investigate the claim. They can hire a third party to do it on their behalf. The law also states that it is the duty of every citizen in any state to communicate information to the governing authorities on anything that is against the law; this includes fire incendiary and arsonists. (Icove J &, John D. 2004)
Therefore the investigators should spend enough time in the crime scene to establish the cause of the fire. This should be done with carefulness to avoid biasing. (http://www.interfire.org.)
To help fire incendiary analysis and investigation the U.S. established the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1992. (http://www.nfpa.org) The NFPA 921 came up with the guidelines on how to investigate a fine incendiary.
The procedures were laid down in a scientific manner and some of them were as follows:
- the fire scene was to be a no access zone to the public during the investigation
- one should report any regulation breaches, ignorance to the standards and any lack of common sense that would have caused fire if they get any of the above information but clearly defined.
- The investigator should go to the fire scene with an open mind even if the fire is well known to be deliberately caused.
- The investigator should interview the first responders or the witnesses and record the observations also interview the fire fighters.
- The scene should be preserved may be b fencing or putting a boundary. The first appearance of the scene should be recorded either by noting down or fulfilling the area.
- The approach to the documentation and also investigations should be systematic and the investigator should pay attention to all the details relating to it. New factual data should be reported because they can be used to re-evaluate the previously made conclusions.
- During the investigations one should look at things like the furniture available, the V-sport of the fire points should be looked and also their numbers, if more than one. The direction of fire should also be investigated. They can also use check-dogs to investigate any accelerant material. All the physical evidences and also circumstantial evidences should be reported. http://www.interfire.org).
With the NFPA 921 standards, the U.S Supreme Court has accepted and adopted their statutes and guidelines as the only way of investigating fire incendiary. Therefore the court decisions have been greatly affected by the adherence to have been greatly affected by the adherence to the NFPA 921 standards. This made NFPA 921 to gain wide acceptance in the U.S. (Icove J &, John D. 2004)
For instance the Chester Valley Coachworks Vs Fisher Price Inc. of August 29, 2001 was judged using the NFPA 921 regulations.
The Defendant, Fisher Price Inc. and the Plaintiff, Chester Valley Coachworks were represented by Daubert and Paul M KaczMarczik Respectively. (John J. L)
The case was concerne3d with the assertion of whether P.M KaczMarczik used the correct and reliable methodology of investigation or not. The court used the NFPA921 as the standard of judging reliability. (John J. L)
According to the court;
(a) Paul filled the case before making any references to the NFPA921 regulations
(b) Approach to the fire scene by Paul N.K was with a preconceived notion of what he expected hence his conclusion found what he expected. He did not have a clear and open mind approach to the scene.
(c) Paul M.K did not investigate the scene thoroughly before it was cleaned up, hence without enough site inspection he could conclude anything he wished.
(d) Paul M.K did not interview the eye witnesses nor did he review any of the 2 scripts by the eyewitnesses which were available in court.
With all these deviations from the NFPA921 the court then ruled that the procedure used in investigation was doubtable and unreliable hence the court passed that Paul M.K cannot testify in that case. Therefore Paul M.K being the only expert on the side of the plaintiff the judgment was granted to Fisher Price Inc. (John J. L)
These laws and court decisions have really influenced and controlled the access to the site by the investigators. They have also influenced the collection of evidence by the adoption of NFPA921 regulations. (http://www.fpemag.com/ )
Fire investigation should be done very accurately and correctly. This should be done also cautiously and with much attention to the details and any evidence.
Accurate investigation will enable the security of both the individuals in the society and the welfare of the whole society at large. This will also avoid increase in fraud and losses that many insurance groups incur due to this.
In conclusion every individual in the society should cooperate with the governing institution to ensure that there is enough security in the society.
David R. Redsicker and John J. O'Connor(1997): Practical Fire and Arson Investigation: Second Edition: Boca Raton, FL: CRC. Press; 1997,
Icove, David J., DeHaan, John D. (2004): Principles of Reconstruction, Forensic
Fire Scene Reconstruction: Person Prentice Hall.
Incendiary Fire Basics: Retrieved on 12th July 2008 from: http://www.interfire.org/res_file/mmo2.asp
John J. Lentini: The Standard of Care in Fire Investigation
Fire Investigation: Retrieved on 12th July 2008 from:
NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations: Retrieved on 12th July 2008 from: http://www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/AboutTheCodes.asp?DocNum=921
Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction: NFPA 921's Impact on Fire Scene: Retrieved on 12th July 2008 from: Reconstruction http://www.fpemag.com/archives/article.asp?issue_id=13&i=64&p=2