For very many years, fire investigations have been carried out in our society. This is due to the fact that such investigations are crucial in identifying the source of the fire. This is also aimed at preventing such an occurrence from recurring (NIJ, 2000). Where fires happen accidentally, it is important to find out what might caused in order to take care of it and avoid something like that taking place again. Where the fire is an arson attack or incendiary fire, it is important for thorough investigations to be done in order to identify the people responsible and punish them.
The damage that can be caused buy a fire is enormous, thus making thorough investigations crucial (Pedrola and Oregon, 2002). Laws and court decisions Laws and court decisions have had enormous effects on the way investigations are carried out and also on the expertise required for the same. They either limit or control the level and extent of investigations. In the case of Daubert vs. Merrel pharmaceuticals, there was a ruling that the investigations would only be carried out by those who were relevant and reliable.
In this case reliability according to the law is determined by peer review, knowledge, cases of mistake and the methods employed (Ogle, 2000). The judge affirmed that those who would undertake the investigations would pass all the four parameters. This reveals the fact that any investigator must be commended by his peers before he or she can present his testimony in court. The judge ascertains that fire investigations are done in a professional approach and in an approach that can receive approval from other experts in fire investigations (NIJ, 2000).
The judge in the same case also ruled that the professionals must possess sufficient experience in fire investigations. To have sufficient knowledge means that the experts must have carried out investigations several times prior to drawing up their conclusions. This decision revealed the fact that the law requires fire investigations to be carried out by knowledgeable investigators (Ogle, 2000). This has impacted on the practice of the professionals currently due to the fact that most of those who carry out analyses require sufficient knowledge in the fire investigations.
The decision also needs for experts who present expert evidence to be those who have a record of minimal mistakes in judging as well as in administering the investigations. Finally, the decision requires evidence and testimony only from the professionals who have employed the correct methods in undertaking the investigations. It is also important that all the complex aspects of dealing with the scene of crime be carefully observed. The court decisions in this case represented other similar decisions and have been passed as standards in fire analysis and investigations (NFPA, 2001).
Effects of the court decisions and laws on access to the fire scene It is not possible to carry out investigations without gaining access to the scene. There are some effects that the court decisions and laws have in access to the scene of fire by the investigators. There are a number of ways through which these effects are felt. Where a case is criminal, there is need for a wide variety of experts to take part in the investigation of the scene. As a result, the fire scene can be so overcrowded that it is not possible for investigators to have proper access.
Additionally, the significance and validity of the investigator in a case can prevent access the scene of fire. In other cases, the criminal procedure may have an effect on the expert’s access to the scene of fire. There is a requirement by the law that self incrimination be identified during the investigation process. It is also a requirement by the law that the suspected person be set free from any advice given by any professional around the area.
Due to the need to observe the rights of the suspect, the investigators may be unable to have access to the scene immediately, for fear of violating the rights of the suspect (Pedrola and Oregon, 2002). Effects on gathering the evidence Sufficient and authentic evidence is required in the court during a case. In fire cases, evidence is mostly presented by the investigators. Gathering evidence in a fire scene is affected by various issues. The law recommends that where there are lives that might be in danger in the scene of fire, they must be saved before anything else is done.
In the fire investigations safety takes precedence over anything else. The law may find guilty any party that fails to protect vulnerable lives (NFPA, 2001). The law also affects the kind of evidence that can be permissible to in the court. It is a fact that fire investigations have developed over time in the past few decades. This has been caused by thorough evaluations from the legal professionals and public authorities. The law calls for close examination of all the elements that are likely sources of the fire. There are a lot of elements that are potential evidence in a fire scene.
In Higginbotham vs. Commonwealth case, the suspect argued that the event had happened accidentally. He claimed that his mattress had caught fire accidentally (NFPA, 2001). He presented information on the elevation of the fire. He however argued that the fire did not reach the bunk. The expert who had investigated the scene presented the statement that the paint in the room was burnt. This indicated that the fire was so serious as to blister the paint. There was a revelation of inconsistency with the statement offered by the accused from the testimony of the investigator.
This culminated to a guilty judgment. This shows that gathering of the most minor evidence in a fire scene can make a difference in court judgment. This means that fire investigators must follow these aspects of evidence collection (Pedrola and Oregon, 2002). Rationale for accurate fire investigations Precise investigations are crucial to the public and the legal experts. The reason behind this is that they provide background from which the source of the fire can be established. From this it is also possible for public bodies to recognize negligence.
There are cases of fire that spread without involvement from the legal authorities. One of the reason for this is that the legal officials may assume that the fire can be handed by the public or extinguish on its own. This may lead to serious damage. Where investigations are carried out, it is possible to recognize such cases of neglect, causing legal officials to be more responsible in the future (NIJ, 2000). Investigations can also be helpful in preventing such situations from recurring in future. For instance, in cases where the people might be unaware of the danger related to some situations.
For example, it might be dangerous for a kerosene heater to be fueled with gasoline. Such situations can be carefully taken care of to prevent fire from happening in the future. All the factors that may lead to a fire are exposed where accurate investigations are carried out. Despite the fact that fire experts are aware of the potential dangers of some scenarios, telling the public about them may not have the same effect as when they have seen the detrimental results of such situations (NFPA, 2001).
Proper investigations are not only significant to individuals, but the entire economy of a nation. This is because they lead to prevention that consequently prevents financial losses. Fires are usually so destructive and can lead to serious economic damage. Where a country has effective measures of getting arsonists or preventing negligence, it is possible to prevent the serious losses caused fire (Pedrola and Oregon, 2002). Conclusion Fire instigations are a crucial area in criminology. It is evident from research that this area has transformed with time.
The role of the fire investigators in fire cases has evolved enormously. There are factors that have come up in determining the admissibility of evidence and expert testimony in a court of law. Peer review, minimal error, proper methods and experience are some of the aspects that are considered by judges as far as fire investigations are concerned. The court decisions and laws have had tremendous effects on the access to scene and collection of evidence. Fire investigations are crucial not only to individuals, but also to the entire economy of a country. References: NFPA (2001).
Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, National Fire Protection Association Journal Issue 8, No. 971, p 43 NIJ (2000). Fire and Arson Scene Evidence: A Guide for Public Safety Personnel; Washington, National Institute of Justice Report; June 2000 Ogle, R. (2000). The need for scientific fire investigations; Fire Protection Engineering Report, Fall 2000, p. 4-8. Pedrola, J. & Oregon, R. (2002). Managing Fire Investigation Scene: Executive Analysis of Fire Service Operations in Emergency Management. Retrieved on May 20, 2010 from http://www. usfa. dhs. gov/pdf/efop/efo33863. pdf