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Vytenis Babrauskas, Ph.D

Abstract

Arc mapping was first introduced in the 2001 edition of NFPA 921 and was subsequently expanded so that in the recent editions it constitutes one of the four main methods for determining the origin of a fire. Careful consideration of engineering principles and large-scale experimental studies on the subject indicates that the relevance and prominence of arc mapping as a leading indicator of fire origin is greatly overstated. The technique is valid and applicable only in some very limited scenarios. Yet it has seen very extensive use in recent years by investigators preparing fire reports. In many cases, such attempted use of arc mapping is based on incorrect and invalid hypotheses, which are often implicitly assumed to be true instead of being explicitly stated. The following are myths: (i) An abundance of arc beads at a given locale means that fire originated in that area, while a paucity of arc beads indicates that it did not. (ii) When multiple arcs are present on a circuit, the direction of arcing will necessarily proceed upstream towards the power source. (iii) If an appliance is the victim of a fire, internal arcing will be primarily near the exterior of the unit, while arcing deep inside indicates a fire origin at that place. NFPA is urged to revise NFPA 921 to eliminate arc mapping as one of the four main methods for establishing fire origin, and to subsume it under the more general category of “fire patterns.” In addition, it is important that NFPA 921 reduce the implied general utility of the method and provide more explicit information on its interpretation and its limitations and on the circumstances under which it may be a valid method for assisting in the determination of the fire origin.

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Vytenis Babrauskas, Ph.D.

Abstract

Short circuits to building wiring can happen due to electrical mishaps, or as a result of fire impinging on the wiring. In either case, this may cause arcing.  It is sometimes erroneously assumed that this must produce signs of ‘electrical activity,’ which is a term often used by fire investigators to mean discernable arc marks or arc beads.  While such artifacts may indeed be produced, it is shown that it does not necessarily happen in every case.  Shorting and arcing (whether due to fire or due to an accident) may occur without leaving physical evidence that is discernable as an arc bead.  Ejecta also may, but do not have to be produced.  Some variables have been identified which can influence the size of arc beads, when arc beads are produced.  But stochastic aspects dominate, and no predictive correlations can be expected.  It is also shown that there are no prediction methods available to establish if an arc locale will result in severing or welding together of conductors.

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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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From: The Desk of Scotty Baker

To: The CCAI Training Committee

Thank You

Over the last several training seminars, even as an old hand, I have learned new information concerning fires and how they do what they do.

 

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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:

  1. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF & E)  course on "Advanced Origin And Cause, Courtroom Techniques"
  2. The National Fire Academy (NFA) " course on Interview/Interrogation & Courtroom Techniques"
  3. The International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) " Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony  (Expert Witness Testimony Class is offered by CCAI)

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.

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