Common Methods of setting fires
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- Chemical igniters - Potassium chlorate, sugar and sulphuric acid (fire fudge)
- Electrical Apparatus
- Electric matches
- Matches and cigarette
- Molotov Cocktails
- Timing device
Initial Action on arrival: Interview incident controller at scene and find out…
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- Time, date of call and manner in which it was received.
- Appliances attended
- State of fire when Fire Service arrived
- Ask what the Service has taken, particularly in entering building and ventilating it after the fire.
- Info the Fire Service has about the building’s security.
- Alterations they have made to scene, i.e. may had to force doors and windows.
- Whether they think the fire is suspicious, and why.
- Their opinions of informant
- Details of people/vehicles acting suspicious.
Initial Action: confer with staff and determine plan of action. Brief and deploy them to…
- Guard and control the scene
- ID and interview witnesses at the scene
- Conduct local enquiries.
The external examination takes into account:
- Adjoining premises which often reveal: = accelerant containers = attempts at forced entry = broken windows = forced doors - Nearby alleyways/streets/driveways - Yards and outbuildings of the fire effected property - The periphery of the structure itself - What distance debris was scattered, particularly if drums or cylinders have exploded.
The surrounding area of the involved premises may also reveal:
- Accelerant containers
- Business appears to be struggling.
- Contents of outbuildings missing
- Property run-down
Identifying the explosive: entering the scene and examination.
- Create path to the centre of the explosion
- ESR analyst start swabbing the area immediately
- Vertical sheets of iron adjacent the blast good sources of residue
- Ensure items that used are carefully cleaned before use.
Preliminary Internal Examination:
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- Low stock levels - commercial premises
- Building in need of repair
- signs of hardship (empty/to let)
- missing family photos, furniture/personal items
- lack of clothing in wardrobes/drawers
- rifled premises
- position of clothes if not in wardrobe/drawers
- Open filing cabinets/missing files
- forced entry into empty till
- Presence of accelerant containers or trails
- separate unrelated seats of fire
- owner/occupier attitude during walk through
- unusual odours
- burn patterns.
Detailed Internal Examination:
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- Smoke deposits and burn patterns
- spalling (cracking/chipping of concrete when heated/cooling)
- damage to wall studs
- damage to roofing timbers
- damage to window sills and door edges
- soot deposits on window glass and craze patterns
- floor area burned through
- skirting board damage
- elimination of false low burns
- removal of fire debris
- under floor inspection.
At the conclusion of the Internal Examination: Fire Investigator will be able to determine…
- Area of origin
- Point of origin
- The seat of the fire.
The cause of the fire
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- Evidence of accelerants
- Evidence of intentional interference - tampering with the alarm /sprinkler system
- Evidence of intentional removal of valuable property
- Foreign objects - such as screws/batteries, that might have been part of a device
- Multiple seats of fire
- Signs that furniture was rearrange to create a fire base
- Signs that windows/skylights were opened to create a draught
- Signs a crime has been committed
- Signs that a heater/other electrical appliance left on
- Unusual burn patterns or unusual time factors.
Conferences must be held during scene examinations to assist you with…
- Assessing info obtained
- Establishing possible motives
- ID suspects
- Planning further enquiries
Suspect enquiries: you may ID suspects by means of…
- Circumstances of the fire
- Info from informants/witnesses
- Media response
- Police resources
- Enquiries at prisons/psychiatric hospitals/schools
- Info from Fire crews on people who regularly attend fires.
Investigate suspects thoroughly and according to priority obtain their…
- Full particulars
- Criminal history
- Details of m/vehicle to which they have access
- Details of associates
Exhibits - Take these control sample
- charred timber and ashes/debris from the seat of the fire for examination and comparison with samples from other points.
- any accelerants found near the scene.
- soil from the surrounding area.
Explosions: What to look for… characteristic damage caused by explosives includes…
- Spread of debris
- Shredding of materials
- A smell peculiar to the exploded material, i.e. almonds
- An overlay of dust
- Shrapnel marks.
Difference between gas explosion and explosives.
- Gas explosions cover a wider area.
- Explosives leave a crater.
- Medical evidence could show suspects/victims inhaled gas prior to explosion.
Powers under Sec 28 Fire Service Act 1975.
- Enter private property when it is on fire or endangered, or when entry is essential to performing a necessary duty.
- Close roads
- Remove vehicles impeding the Fire Service. If necessary, than can break into the vehicle for that purpose.
- Remove people who are in danger or interfering with operations, using reasonable force if necessary.
- Do anything else that is reasonably necessary for the protection of life and property.
The point of the origin is the exact location at which:
- component failed
- fire was maliciously lit, or
- accidental fire originated.
Conduct a preliminary interview of the owner. Specifically, find out:
- when the premises were last secured, and by whom
- type of business
- actions leading upto the fire
- details of any suspects and any insurance
- whether he/she knows the cause of the fire
Fires involving Explosives: Initial Action
- There may be secondary device at the scene do not handle/interfere with anything unfamiliar.
- Do not use cellphones/portable radios/transmitting devices.
- Evacuate the scene to a distance of 100m.
- If the IED is located, immediately obtain the assistance of an IED Operator.
- Give regular SITREPS to Police Comms.
Specialist Fire Investigators: will be called to attend and investigate…
- Fires where fatalities occur
- Fire where serious life threatening fire related injuries
- Fires in buildings where built-in safety features have failed
- Structure fires where the cause is suspicious
- Significant fire spread across a property boundary
Guarding and Controlling the Scene
- Be aware of re-ignition from hotspots
- Ensuring the scene is not interfered with
- Be vigilant and watch for possible suspects
- Exclusion and control of on-lookers/property owners
- Report all matters of significance to the O/C
- ID any witnesses among onlookers/passers-by
- Preserving evidence
- Preventing looting
Determining the Seat of the Fire
- Witness reports
- When they first noticed the fire, where they were at the time
- Wind direction and speed, and the weather
- Direction of spread
- State of the fire at that time
- Depth of charring
- Severity of the damage
- Colour of the flames and smoke
- Presence of ‘starting devices’
- Reports and opinions of other specialists.
Information on the insurance; include…
- Details of the policies on the property and contents
- Any recent increases in cover for property/contents
- Other claims
- Whether the property was over or under-insured
- Assessor’s report