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Courts examine the “negative corpus” amendments to NFPA 921 and process of elimination in considering the admissibility of fire experts’ opinions

 “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

For many years, it was accepted practice for a fire investigator, having eliminated accidental or natural causes of a fire, to conclude, without specific physical evidence, that the fire must have been caused by human agency, i.e., arson.  In product liability cases, investigators would conclude that an appliance must have been defective, as no other cause of fire could be identified.  Courts routinely accepted such opinion evidence in criminal and civil cases. This method of fire cause determination was referred to as “negative corpus” because it was akin to a conclusion that murder had occurred even though no body had been found.

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From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.

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NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

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SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 and Scripps News investigation found arson fires are not investigated properly in many American cities -- including San Diego -- due to a chaotic patchwork of reporting systems and standards.

Many deliberately set building fires are not reported to the federal government.

Nationally, just 5 percent of all residential building fires are intentionally set, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.  Data collected by Scripps News suggests the national arson rate to be significantly higher.

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White Paper

Study by: Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid KemalExponent, Inc. USAMichael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas SkowronskiNorthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USAEric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. HaddenSchool of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid Kemal Exponent, Inc. USA Michael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas Skowronski Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USA Eric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. Hadden School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT

Two experimental fires, with contrasting intensities, were conducted in March 2016, in the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) of New Jersey, United States in order to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability of the fire direction indicators used in wildland fire investigation.  The experiments were part of a larger project intended to measure firebrand production in a forested ecosystem.  As part of this project, fire behavior, as well as the environmental and fuel conditions were also measured.  Two burn parcels, covering an area of approximately 30 hectares each, were ignited from unimproved forest roads which delimited them.  The forest canopy was comprised primarily of pitch pine with intermittent oaks.  The understory contained a mixed shrub layer of huckleberry, blueberry, and scrub oaks. In order to explore a wide range of indicators, objects such as bottles, cans and small fence elements were planted in the burn area, and photographed before and after the fire.  To obtain an accurate measure of pre- and post-fire fuel properties, fuel load, fuel bulk density, and fuel moisture content were also measured. In addition, environmental data (wind velocity and direction, air temperature and humidity) were recorded.  The fire behavior can be reconstructed using measurements of fire rate of spread, fire front temperatures, fire front geometry, and heat fluxes.  Video and infrared cameras were used to document the general fire behavior in selected locations.  This paper represents the first step in the analysis of the fire indicators and focuses on the more intense of the two burns and on the appearance of the macro- and microscale fire pattern indicators.  A majority of the indicators were assessed, although the configuration of the burn parcels, the ignition technique, and precipitation immediately following the fires limited a full study.  The results show that some fire direction indicators are highly dependent on local fire conditions and fire behavior and may be in contradiction with the general spread of the fire.  Overall, this study demonstrates that fire pattern indicators are a useful tool but must be interpreted in the frame of a general analysis of the fire, combined with a good understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics.

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Seminar Dates for 2018 and 2019

March 5-8, 2018  &  September 24-27, 2018

February 25-28, 2019  &  September 23-26, 2019

Advanced Explosive Recognition 2013

The Central Valley Arson Investigators association continued the tradition of providing outstanding training at their annual Advanced Explosive Recognition class.  The training was held once again at the Tulare International Agri-Center grounds.  This year’s topic was the history of the American criminal bombings.  Guest speaker Ed Nordskog, LA Sheriff’s Department, lead the class through the history of American bombings, from the earliest bombings in America right up to the most current-day events.

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Practical Approaches for Recouping Good Faith Payments

Larry-Arnold-article

by: Larry Arnold

Faced with growing losses, insurance companies are focusing on fraud management and implementing risk mitigation controls, while at the same time remaining cognizant of their duty of good faith to policyholders.  So what happens when an insurer makes good faith payments on legitimate elements of an insurance claim but subsequently uncovers fraud in other elements of the claim?  Is the insurer entitled to recover all monies paid as part of the claim?  Or only the amount paid in reliance on the insured's misrepresentations?

Previously, there was no clear answer.  It was safe to assume that an insurer could recover monies paid on a claim under the right circumstances – the difficulty occurred when trying to recover payments made prior to the established fraud date.  For example, in California, the insurance code states, “If a representation is false in a material point, whether affirmative or promissory, the injured party is entitled to rescind the contract from the time the representation becomes false.”

Recent trial court rulings in favor of insurance companies, however, are changing the claims landscape.  These rulings will impact the way insurance companies handle genuine claims that are subsequently tainted by fraud, encouraging them to be proactive in recouping good faith payments.

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Water and Burning Cooking Oil

The three pictures below show the effect of putting one cup of water in a pan of one cup of oil on fire. You should always choose to cover the burning pan with a lid or cookie sheet and then turn off the burner. If you put water on the oil fire, the effects will almost always be deadly.

Submitted by Troy Morrison PIO CCAI

oil_water_fire1

 oil_water_fire2 oil_water_fire3

Surviving fires: How common mistakes can lead to devastating fires

Shared by Jamie Novak, St Paul Fire Department

Surviving_firesCOON RAPIDS, Minn. - Fire does not schedule home visits, nor do firefighters arrive by appointment.

In the interest of fire safety, we decided to change that.

During two days of shooting, a crew of firefighters and KARE 11 photographers with a dozen cameras gathered at the most deadly place for fires in Minnesota: home.

Jamie Novak, a St. Paul Fire investigator, helped us locate a three-bedroom rambler in Coon Rapids that was already scheduled for demolition.

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Cooking fires: do you know what to do?

Shared by Jamie Novak, St Paul Fire Department

cooking-oil-fireST. PAUL, Minn. - If anyone knew her way around a kitchen, it was Wille Mae Coleman. No one could count the number of times she'd fried chicken for supper. Then last August, alone at the stove in her apartment, the 75-year-old grandmother died doing it.

"I vividly remember getting the phone call," says her son Don Coleman, somberly. "Very difficult, that's my mother." Wille Mae suffered serious burns on 70 percent of her body. He was with his mother at Regions Hospital when she died.

Read more and watch the video

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