Forest fires are generally consciously or unconsciously the work of man for various reasons. Fires generated byvoltaic arc between power lines and the underlying trees do not occur often. These few cases may be only demonstratedby analyzing around the site where the arc may have been generated. Material such as leaves, bark and soil can beanalyzed to find the metallic residues from the fused cables. The electrical cables usually composed of aluminum orcopper alloys, when involved in an electric arc may spray fused micro-drops of metals, increasing the natural levelof such elements. In two cases, the Al and Cu concentrations were increased by between 2.56 to 13.9 times thebackground levels. Electron microscopy of leaf surfaces has identified some profound alterations produced by theintense heat of the electrical discharge.
In 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 56,000 structure fires per year in homes that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 470 civilian deaths, 1,490 civilian injuries, and $1.0 billion in direct property damage. These homes included one- and two-family homes (including manufactured homes) and apartments (including townhouses and other multi-family dwellings).Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, figuring in two of every five fires (40%). The fires involving space heaters accounted for 84% of the civilian deaths and 75% of civilian injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment, as well as over half (52%) of direct property damage. Another one-third (32%) of fires involved a fireplace or chimney, but these fires accounted for a much smaller share of civilian fatalities (5%) and civilian injuries (6%). Central heat and water heaters were responsible for 12% and 10% of home fires caused by heating equipment, respectively.
By Charles C. Roberts, Jr., Ph. D., P.E.
Automobile engine coolant related fires may result from engine coolant leakage,an increase in the concentration of the glycol in the water/glycol mixture, thenature of the vapor/particle distribution, and contact with an ignition source inthe engine compartment. Ethylene glycol, a common coolant, is a flammableliquid with an ignition temperature near 800F. In recent years, propylene glycolis being used because of environmental reasons. Propylene glycol is also aflammable liquid with an ignition temperature near 700F. In an automotiveapplication, the glycol is mixed with water at about a 50/50 ratio. Ignition of thisconcentration of coolant is difficult because of the water. When released at hightemperatures into the atmosphere where the water evaporates, the glycolvapor/liquid droplets can reach the state of an ignitable mixture. Typical ignitionsources in the engine compartment include hot surfaces (exhaust manifold,exhaust system) and electrical components (relays, distributor, spark plug wires).Automobile accidents, resulting in hot vapor expulsion from the coolant system,are also known to cause fires.
In this paper, we review the research results about the identification of the electrical fire trace evidence and the fire reason recognition. We point out the existing problems and put forward the corresponding suggestions to promote the development of the cause of the fire investigation and make it better to serve for the work of fire investigation.
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.
The California Conference of Arson Investigators has patterned its CFI certification program after the State of California’s certification program with two major differences: 1) The CCAI – CFI program requires the applicant must stand for a written exam and 2) the CCAI-CFI certification requires participation in continued professional training. To keep the certificate valid, a CCAI Certified Fire Investigator must attend 30 hours of approved tested training, or 40 hours of CCAI approved non-tested training or a combination of 40 hours tested and non-tested training every three years, from the date his or her certificate was issued. The hourly training requirement can easily be met by attending two 20-hour CCAI training seminar’s within the three-year period.
To apply, a person does not have to be a member of CCAI; however it is strongly encouraged that everyone in the field of fire investigation belongs to the California Conference of Arson Investigators, the leading organization for training in fire and arson investigations in California.
To qualify, applicants must submit certificates of training showing that they have completed Fire Investigation 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B. If you already possess Level I and Level II Fire Investigation Certifications from the State of California, a copy of your certification certificates will suffice to validate that you have met the training requirements for Fire Investigation 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B. In addition, you will need to complete the eight CFITrainer.net modules listed in the CFI-SOP.
Applicants must also validate that they have had the overall responsibility of, and have investigated, 150 fires to determine fire origin and 150 fires to determine fire cause. They must also substantiate that they have testified twice, in court or in deposition (not in the same case), under oath, pertaining to the origin and cause of fires or in the field of explosions. The testimony can be criminal, civil or from deposition but must be directly related to fire origin and fire cause or origin and cause in an explosion incident. In lieu of actual court related testimony, the applicant may complete any one of the below listed courses.
The following courses/classes will meet or substitute for the criteria of the court room requirements:
The question has risen, “If an investigator possesses a California State Fire Investigator II Certification, why would he/she have to verify again that he/she has investigated 150 fires for cause and 150 fires for origin and testified twice in court?” It is the CCAI Board of Directors’ position that, if CCAI is going to certify an investigator, the person’s qualifications must be independently validated by CCAI using documents and under oath statements.
The initial application fee, if you are a CCAI member, is $150.00 and the certification is valid for three years. Renewal of the CCAI-CFI certification, if you are a CCAI member, is $140.00 every three years. If you are not a member of CCAI, the initial application fee is $300.00 and renewal is $280.00 every three years.
Verification of Testimony
Current CCAI Certified Fire Investigators
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