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Arson Awareness. Fire Scene Preservation. Objectives. Identify and describe the importance of observations made prior to, during or after a fire Describe the importance of preserving a fire scene for cause determination. Describe methods of preserving fire scene evidence. Fire Behavior.

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Arson awareness l.jpg

Arson Awareness

Fire Scene Preservation

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Objectives

  • Identify and describe the importance of observations made prior to, during or after a fire

  • Describe the importance of preserving a fire scene for cause determination.

  • Describe methods of preserving fire scene evidence.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Fire Behavior

  • Fire behavior is predictable.

  • A normal fire follows a predictable path of fire progression.

    • Growth Stage

    • Free Burning

    • Decay

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Fire Behavior

  • Normal Fire Patterns

    • One ignition source

    • Growth is upward and outward

    • ‘V’ patterns form

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Fire Behavior

  • Abnormal fire growth or burn patterns may indicate non-accidental cause:

    • Unusually heavy destruction in area of origin.

    • Inverted ‘V’ patterns

    • Multiple areas of origin.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observation Skills

  • Cause determination is based on various types of evidence.

    • Burn patterns

    • Point of origin

    • Elimination of causes

    • Witness interviews

      • Occupants

      • Bystanders

      • Firefighters

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observation Skills

  • Firefighters are primary witnesses to the event, before, during and after the incident

  • Their observations can assist the efforts of investigators immensely.

  • Firefighters should be prepared to provide written witness statements after the fire.

  • Their ability to preserve evidence for investigators is crucial to cause determination.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Environmental Observations

  • Wind direction and speed

  • Weather conditions

  • Neighborhood conditions

    • Real estate values

    • For sale signs

    • Problem areas

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations Enroute

  • Note fire conditions reported from dispatch.

  • Vehicles or people leaving the scene

    • Normally people move toward the fire

  • Unusual circumstances or obstacles

    • Blocked access

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Note time and fire conditions on arrival

  • Occupants clothing

  • Occupants behavior

    • Over curious

    • Indifferent

    • Too helpful

  • Bystanders (familiar faces?)

  • Location of fire

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Smoke color

    • May indicate what is burning.

    • May indicate the stage of the fire

  • Fire travel

    • Unusual signs or routes of fire extension.

  • Rate of Combustion

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Exterior evidence

    • Tracks

    • Flammable liquid containers

    • Greatest damage may help locate area of origin

  • Area of origin

    • Follow damage from least burned area to the area of greatest damage.

    • Is ignition source readily identifiable?

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Means of Entry

    • Were doors locked or unlocked?

    • Signs of force entry prior to arrival.

  • Condition of Windows

    • Open or closed.

    • Shades up or down

    • Broken

      • Is the glass inside or out

      • Smoke stained or not

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Unusual odors

    • Petroleum or solvents

    • May prompt the taking of samples

    • Any containers on site, inside or out?

  • Difficulty of extinguishment

    • Did fire react normally when water was applied

    • Did fire reignite or flash back

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Room Arrangement

    • Furnishings in place or absent

    • Correct items in the room

    • Do items appear to be substitutes?

    • Signs of burglary

    • Are valuables missing

  • What’s burning?

    • Can object be identified.

    • If not, eliminate other causes

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations on Arrival

  • Signs of fire spread by unusual methods:

    • Trailers

    • Out of place fuel sources.

    • Splash or pour patterns

    • Inverted ‘V’ or cone patterns

  • Did fire protection work?

    • Detection systems

    • Suppression systems

    • Did system control fire? If not, why not?

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations at the Scene

  • Incendiary devices:

    • Trailers

    • Fusees

    • Match books

    • Hypergolic chemical mixtures

City of Oswego Fire Department


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City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations on Arrival

  • Depth of charring

    • Depends on type of wood and length of burn

    • May help indicate area of orign

    • May help determine length of time fire burned

  • Spalling

  • Annealing of springs

  • Beading on wiring

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations on Arrival

  • Burn Patterns:

    • ‘V’

    • Inverted ‘V’

    • Truncated cone

    • Hour glass

    • Lines of demarcation

    • Clean burn

    • Staining of glass

City of Oswego Fire Department


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‘V’ Patttern

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Origin and Cause often found at apex of ‘V’

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Area of Origin

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Point of Origin/

Source of Ignition

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Line of Demarcation

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Clean Burn

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations on Arrival

  • Separate fires

    • May be caused by dropdown

    • May be evidence of set

  • Means of Entry

    • Doors locked or unlocked

    • Signs of forced entry prior to arrival

City of Oswego Fire Department


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City of Oswego Fire Department


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City of Oswego Fire Department


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Observations on Arrival

  • Indicators of the direction of fire spread

    • There may be more than one ‘V’ pattern

      • Look for lowest burn

    • Melted glass and light bulbs.

    • Different degrees of charring on furnishings

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Preserving Evidence

  • The entire fire scene is of evidentiary value, not just the apparent area of origin.

  • Overhaul is a destructive, but necessary phase of fire suppression.

    • Opening voids to check for extension.

    • Pulling appliances away from walls

    • Opening furniture cushions, bedding and mattress to eliminate deep seated fire.

  • All of these activities may destroy evidence.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Preserving Evidence

  • When conducting overhaul, be able to recognize evidence which may be of use to investigators.

  • Delay overhaul, if possible, until a fire investigator can assess the scene.

  • If overhaul cannot be delayed, attempt to keep damage to a minimum, and report observations to investigator ASAP.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Preserving Evidence

  • Attempt to preserve fire patterns and other physical evidence during overhaul.

    • Inspection holes

    • Leave furniture in place or return to original position.

    • Minimize water damage.

    • Limit number of personnel in area.

City of Oswego Fire Department


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Preserving Evidence

  • NEVER move or dismantle evidence.

    • Destruction of context

    • Spoliation

City of Oswego Fire Department


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