Fire Investigations Bureau
MDFR Fire Investigators work cooperatively with operational fire rescue units, department fire prevention personnel and other governmental agencies to achieve the goal of preventing injuries and property damage as a result of fires as well as reducing the crime of arson in our community.
All fire investigators are National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) certified, Fire and Explosion Investigators and Instructors, and most have obtained the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) Fire Investigator certification. Information obtained from fire investigations is used to develop effective regulatory codes, standards, inspection and suppression procedures, and similar actions designed to prevent or control fires.
It is MDFR policy that every fire that occurs within the County's jurisdiction shall be investigated.
At all fire scenes, suppression units conduct a preliminary investigation and the fire investigator is requested to respond when:
- The fire's cause cannot be readily determined
- The fire's cause is suspected to be incendiary in nature
- The fire involves a fatality or significant injury to civilians or firefighters
Once on scene, the fire investigator has the responsibility of determining the fire's cause and origin. The fire investigator documents the incident by taking digital photographs, preparing a detailed scene sketch, interviewing witnesses, victims and owners, and collecting evidence. The fire investigator will determine the fire's cause to be one of the following categories:
- Incendiary: Fires that are intentionally set
- Accidental: Fires caused by non-malicious, electrical, mechanical, chemical, or careless means
- Undetermined: Fires that may have more than one possible ignition source and therefore cannot prove one source of single ignition point
If the fire investigator determines the cause is incendiary in nature, police arson detectives are requested to conduct the criminal investigation.
Yearly, the Fire Investigation Bureau conducts an average of 1,000 fire investigations. A large percentage of these investigations are vehicular or single family residential fires, of which approximately 40 percent are incendiary fires. The Fire Investigation Bureau works closely with the arson police detectives and the State Attorney's Office to successfully prosecute arson cases.
The Fire Investigation Bureau also has code enforcement responsibilities to include the enforcement of false fire alarms, and the issuance and enforcement of agricultural burn permits.
Additionally, the Fire Investigation Bureau assists the Fire Inspection Bureau with the handling of hazard complaints such as overcrowding in night clubs and blocked or locked exits in public assemblies, assists in the inspection and enforcement of the use and sale of fireworks, and in the inspection and issuance of permits for the use of explosives for structure demolitions.
A recent addition to the Fire Investigation Bureau is Cinder, a hydrocarbon accelerant detection canine, commonly known as an arson dog. Thanks to a scholarship awarded by State Farm Insurance Company to the MDFR Fire Investigation Bureau, Cinder is now a member of the bureau that responds to assist in fire investigations.
Cinder is trained to quickly pinpoint the location of accelerant residue such as gasoline and lighter fluid that are commonly used in arson fires. Cinder's ability to discriminate among scents on a fire scene assists the fire investigators in determining where to collect fire debris samples for evidence.