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In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal found no prejudicial error in the introduction of evidence of a four year old arson to the insured’s vehicle in an insured’s trial for arson and insurance fraud involving his business.

People v. Valerio (Second District Court of Appeal of California, February 23, 2016, Unpublished) 2016 WL 720988

Valerio’s business was having financial difficulty. Six weeks after taking out a business insurance policy, a fire occurred. The investigation revealed gasoline and road flares were used to start the fire. Four years earlier, Valerio had presented an insurance claim for arson to his vehicle which also involved the use of gasoline and road flares. (The claim was paid and no criminal charges were brought.) Valerio was convicted of arson and insurance fraud, based in part on this prior act evidence. On appeal, he claimed the introduction of the prior arson was prejudicial. The appellate court affirmed, concluding that the evidence of the prior fire was not inadmissible, because “other act” evidence may be admitted when relevant to prove some other material fact, including intent, knowledge, identity, motive, or the existence of a common design or plan.

To view the opinion, click HERE.

John D. DeHaan, Ph.D., FABC, FFSSoc, MIFireE
November 2011

Introduction: 

In every country, particularly in highly industrialized ones, fire kills a significant percentage of people. In the U.S., it is one of the five leading causes of accidental death with about 3,500 fire deaths reported per year (12 per million population).1 In the UK, 451 fire-related deaths were reported in 2008 (7.1 deaths/1000 dwelling fires or 7.3 per million population).2 Scotland reported only 47 fire fatalities in 2010-11 and 59 for 2009-10.3 These figures are about half of what they were in the 1970’s. The involvement of the investigator or forensic specialist in fatal fires can come in any form, from any sector, and challenge one’s talents and knowledge to come to just and accurate conclusions. These cases require the highest degree of cooperation between the investigators who all have contributions to make towards a successful investigation. When deaths occur in a fire, the event becomes the focus of the press and the public as well as police, fire, insurance, and forensic professionals. When problems occur, they can have far-reaching consequences. 

 

From Out of the Abyss...

This week's article is from the March 1956 VOL II, No 3 issue of the California Conference of Arson Investigators newsletter.  It was written by George W. Lacy.

"What Constitutes Evidence", Analyzed Unusual Evidence for Scientific Identification. 

SUMMARY:

Eldorado National-Kansas (Eldorado) is recalling certain model year 2010-2015 Amerivan and Amerivan 10 vehicles manufactured September 1, 2009, to March 28, 2016 on Dodge and Chrysler minivan chassis. The crimp fastener on the fuel line assembly of the affected vehicles may not be fully crimped, allowing fuel to leak at the hose to fitting assembly.

Find the details at NHTSA

Description

This recall involves Rheem brand “Performance Platinum” electric water heaters in 40, 50 and 80 gallon capacities. The recalled water heaters are gray and have the “Performance Platinum” Rheem logo decal on the front above the thermostat control panel. The water heaters have a rating plate near the bottom of the unit with the model number, date of manufacture and serial number. Recalled water heaters have the following model number and have a serial number within the following ranges:

Model Number

Serial Number Ranges

Date Code

XE40M12EC55U0

A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX

M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX

Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX

 

A0515XXXXX

 

A1015XXXXX to A1615XXXXX

01Jan2014 – 21Dec2014

 

 

 

30Jan2015

 

03Mar2015  – 13Apr2015

XE50M12EC55U0

A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX

M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX

Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX

 

A0515XXXXX

 

A1015XXXXX to A1615XXXXX

01Jan2014 – 21Dec2014

 

 

 

30Jan2015

 

03Mar2015 – 13Apr2015

XE50T12EC55U0

A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX

M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX

Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX

1Jan2014 – 21Dec2014

XE80T12EC55U0

A0114XXXXX to A5214XXXXX

M0114XXXXX to M5214XXXXX

Q0114XXXXX to Q5214XXXXX

1Jan2014 – 21Dec2014

Get the full details at CPSC.

CCAI was recently contacted by CBS (San Francisco) News Investigative Reporter, Julie Watts, regarding fire retardant chemicals in child car seats, and was looking for footage of burning vehicles. We were happy to help.

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Car seats are the only consumer product that parents are legally required to purchase in every state, though they are also commonly used outside of the car as strollers seats, swing inserts and as a place for babies to sleep inside the home.

A recent KPIX investigation repeatedly uncovered concerning, even cancer-causing, chemicals in a majority of the car seats tested. Then, using biomonitoring, we linked high levels of cancer-causing flame retardants in a child’s body to the flame retardants in her car seat.

The alleged culprit: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 44-year old Federal Motor Vehicle Flammability Standard, FMVSS No. 302.

Click here for the video

Click on the link to see the full investigation.

Toxic Safety: Investigating Car Seat Chemicals

NHTSA Recall - Sub-Woofer Electrical Short

Summary:

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing (Toyota) is recalling certain model year 2011-2012 Toyota Avalon vehicles manufactured February 9, 2010, to October 22, 2012.  In the affected vehicles, the sub-woofer speaker located in the trunk may experience an intermittent electrical short which may cause damage to the integrated circuit (IC) in the audio amplifier.  In some cases, the damaged IC may allow a constant electrical current flow to the sub-woofer.

See the full details at NHTSA

NHTSA Recall - Exhaust Pipe Leak may Result in Fire

Summary:

Nova Bus (Nova) is recalling certain model year 2007 LFS transit buses manufactured January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2007. In the affected vehicles, the band clamp on the flex pipe between the turbocharger and the diesel particulate filter may be incorrectly located allowing the exhaust pipe to leak hot exhaust gases onto nearby components.

See full details at NHTSA

Development of Standardized Cooking Fires For Evaluation of Prevention Technologies

Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Development of Standardized Cooking Fires for Evaluation of Prevention Technologies: Data Analysis"
Authors: Joshua Dinaburg, Daniel Gottuk – Hughes Associates, Inc.

July 2014 report

Beginning in 2010, the Foundation began a program to review the potential effectiveness of various technologies potentially capable of preventing cooking range top fires. A workshop conducted as part of that project considered the emergence of commercial products on the market and identified the need to develop standardized tests and criteria to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of such devices. This report summarizes and analyzes the results of two live fire test series conducted to form the basis for such a test protocol.

pdf Download the report.  (PDF, 5 MB) pdf Download the executive summary. (PDF, 20 KB)

October 2013 report

Cooking-equipment related fires are a leading cause of U.S. fire loss. Beginning in the mid 1980’s, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and home appliance industry undertook a comprehensive review of strategies to mitigate death, injury and property loss from cooking fires. All strategies were engineering strategies defined by a condition to be detected (e.g., overheat of pan or food in pan, absence of person actively engaged in cooking process, early-stage fire on stovetop) and an action to be taken (e.g., shut off cooking heat, sound alarm, suppress fire). As part of this study, a comprehensive review of existing technologies was done.

In 2010, the Foundation conducted a study supported by NIST to develop this action plan. The study focused particularly on prevention technologies suitable for use on or with home cooking appliances. and consisted of a literature and technology review; the development of an enhanced technology evaluation methodology based on an in-depth review of cooking fire statistics; and the evaluation of currently available technologies using this methodology. The project culminated with a one day workshop of 35 leaders from the kitchen appliance, fire service, and user communities who met to review the above findings and identify gaps in information. The highest priority action item identified at that workshop toward implementation of commercially available cooking fire mitigation technologies was: "Develop standard fire scenarios and create test methods and performance criteria which can feed into standards development"

This report presents the results of a follow on project sponsored by NIST to gather data towards this goal.

pdf Download the report.  (PDF, 2 MB)

NHTSA Recall - Cooling Fan Resistor May Melt

SUMMARY:

Kia Motors America (Kia) is recalling certain model year 2014 Kia Forte vehicles manufactured December 5, 2012, to April 17, 2014. In the affected vehicles, the cooling fan resistor may overheat and melt.

See full details at NHTSA

Fire Investigation 101

OnlineFireScienceDegree.org has just published a collection of their favorite fire investigation sites and the California Conference of Arson Investigators is listed: http://onlinefiresciencedegree.org/fire-investigation/.

This site has loads of information and resources for education in the field of fire investigations.

More Articles...

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