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In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal found no prejudicial error in the introduction of evidence of a four year old arson to the insured’s vehicle in an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People v. Valerio (Second District Court of Appeal of California, February 23, 2016, Unpublished) 2016 WL 720988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

Passing of Rob Van Wormer

The following article was submitted by Randy Martin, CCAI Chaplain.

 

As I arrived at the parking lot of the HP Pavillion in San Jose, I was greeted by a red sea of fire apparatus.  The San Jose Fire Department had provided two ladder trucks that were set up in the parking lot; ladders fully extended facing each other with a very large American flag hanging between them.  It was a spectacular site, and what an awesome tribute to Rob.  The flag hanging is this manner has always impressed me.

After arriving, I located the Chaplain that would be performing the service.  As it turned out, he was a Captain that had I worked with in Riverside, California.  It was good to see him again.

The procession that entered the parking lot was laden with fire apparatus and was followed by the limousines that carried the family.  The procession route was lined with fire personnel standing at attention and saluting as the fire engine, which carried the casket, made its way through the crowd.

The San Jose Fire Department had positioned two additional ladder trucks with their ladders fully extended, donning the American flag hanging between them inside the Pavillion.

The service opened with music and a warm welcome to everyone in attendance followed by prayer, guest speakers, the eulogy, and a message to the Fire Family, a Law Enforcement prayer and a song.  The Benediction was followed by the Fire Fighters prayer, the Last Alarm and the Riffle Volley.  Taps rang out from the bag pipes, which always gets to me.  In closing, they had the Flag Folding after which the pipes and drums played Amazing Grace and ended with the presentation of gifts for the Family.

Rob was only on this earth for 47 years; he left us way too soon! He will be missed dearly.

Fire Chaplain

Randy Martin

Remembering 9-11

September 11, 2001

CCAI
Remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice
and those they left behind.

Outfitting Your Smartphone for Fire Investigations

by:

Cathleen E. Corbitt-Dipierro

Stonehouse Media Incorporated

www.interfire.org

Smartphones are quickly taking over the US cellular phone hardware market — iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, Palm, just to name a few brands.  With their advanced computing capability, smartphones are enabling users to perform more and more tasks on their phone than just the simple calling and texting.  This computing power is harnessed by “apps,” which are application software programs used on smartphones.


For the fire investigator, the smartphone can become a handy tool in your daily work, but only if you know how to outfit it.  This article highlights some of the core apps that fire investigators can use every day to assist in managing their investigative and administrative work.  One caution before we begin: the investigator should be aware that any investigative information kept on your smartphone is not secure and also may be discoverable in a future legal proceeding.  For that reason, we’ve confined the discussion of apps in this article to those where case-based investigative information is not stored or shared.  At all times, exercise the utmost caution with investigative information.

Read more...

Man sets fire to house drying shorts, socks in microwave

We’ve all had days when inclement weather, a busted clothes dryer or a fiendish combination of the two has us scrambling to dry our under-things for that hot date or big job interview. A man in Weymouth, Utah had probably thought he’d found the ideal solution when he thought to dry his two pairs of shorts and socks in his microwave. That is, until he had to be rescued from the fire in his apartment. Neighbors led him to safety after they heard a smoke alarm go off and firefighters quickly put out the fire. All clothing items were destroyed. "The fire safety message here is to never put clothing of any kind in the microwave or an oven to attempt to dry them," said a spokesperson for Dorset fire and rescue.

A Basic Premise - People Lie

by Paul Francois & Enrique Garcia (Third Degree Communications)

It is a basic human instinct to lie to avoid consequences. We discover this around 3 years of age and it develops and spirals out of control from then on. Some people are really good liars and others not so much. But the one constant is that everybody does it to some extent. For those of you in the law enforcement community, we're not telling you anything you don't already know. For cops, getting lied to is a daily occurrence.

Read more..

More Articles...

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