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Presentation on theme: "OFFICE OF THE STATE FIRE MARSHAL"— Presentation transcript:

Protecting Evidence for Cause and Determination

2 OBJECTIVES Identify the three factors that can cause a fire (4-3.4) Identify the responsibilities of the firefighter in relation to cause and determination (4-3.4) Identify the role of the fire investigator (4-3.4)

3 OBJECTIVES Identify observations the firefighter should make, while responding and working on a fire scene, in relation to cause and determination. (3-3.7, ) Identify the firefighter’s responsibility, after a fire, in relation to cause and determination (3-3.7, )

4 OBJECTIVES Identify the firefighter’s role in obtaining statements at the fire scene (4-3.4) Identify the procedures for securing a fire scene (3-3.13, 4-3.4) Identify the legal considerations, at the fire scene, in relation to cause and determination (4-3.4) Identify the procedures for protecting and preserving evidence. (3-3.13) IFSTA, Essentials, 4th ed, Chapter 17 Delmar, Firefighter’s Handbook, 2000, Chapter 20

5 FIRE CAUSES Fuel that ignited Form and source of the heat of ignition
Act or omission that helped to bring these two factors together

6 CAUSE & DETERMINATION Recognize and collect information by observing the fire and its behavior During the response Upon arrival When entering the structure While locating the fire While extinguishing the fire During overhaul efforts

7 FIRE INVESTIGATOR Collection and preservation of evidence
Analyzing evidence to determine the exact cause

8 OBSERVATIONS Note anything that could point to the origin and cause or any actions taken that could affect determining the origin and cause

9 OBSERVATIONS While en route to the fire, note the following:
Time of day Are people dressed appropriately Should building be occupied Weather conditions/natural hazards Hot, cold, stormy Heavy snow, flooding, fog Hot outside, furnace running Cold outside, windows open Man-made barriers or obstructions Vehicles blocking access, hydrants, FDC, etc Dumpsters, fallen trees, etc., blocking streets

10 OBSERVATIONS People leaving the scene
Vehicle type, color and license plate Clothing Physical description Upon arrival on the scene, note the following: Try to determine fire growth from time is reported until time of arrival, if caller is present Location(s) of smoke and flame Has flashover occurred Has it self-ventilated How? Vertical or Horizontal?

11 OBSERVATIONS Wind direction and speed may have effect on fire spread and path of travel, may mislead investigation Door and windows locked or unlocked Signs of forcible entry, covered over on the inside Is the fire a single location Are there multiple unconnected locations Pinpoint origin of fire Containers or cans found in unusual places inside or outside could have contained accelerants

12 OBSERVATIONS Tools that may have been used for a burglary
Pry bars, large screwdrivers, etc Items found in unusual locations Familiar faces in a crowd Persons that show up at most fires Persons may come forward to offer help or information Note the following observations while fighting the fire: Unusual odors may smell as approaching the area While wearing SCBA you will not smell odors

13 OBSERVATIONS Abnormal fire behavior/response to water application
Flashbacks Re-ignition Number of rekindles in the same area Fire intensifies or spreads Obstacles to firefighting activities Furniture or other obstructions in doorways or hallways Doors blocked or tied shut Holes cut in floor

14 OBSERVATIONS Incendiary devices
Candles Wires or strings hanging from ceiling Trip wires Broken bottles or containers Parts of timers or electrical devices Trailers (Combustible materials rolled and laid end to end from room to room Papers Rags Blankets Flammable/combustible liquid Spreads fire from one point to another Can be indicated by burn or char pattern

15 OBSERVATIONS Structural alterations Fire patterns
Holes cut in walls, ceilings, floors Fire doors blocked open Elevator hoist-way doors blocked open on multiple floors Fire patterns Movement Intensity Irregular burning Locally heavy charring

16 OBSERVATIONS Heat intensity Documents
Varying degrees of heat intensity in same room or area Documents Immediate availability of insurance policy, deeds, inventory lists Alarm (fire and/or intrusion) and suppression systems Tampering with either system System damaged or shut off

17 OBSERVATIONS Location of fire vs. ignition sources
Closet Dresser or file cabinet drawer Bathtub Center of a floor Center of a bed Personal possessions Little or no clothing in closets Minimal or no furniture No food or dishes Lack of family photos, heirlooms, diplomas, etc.

18 OBSERVATIONS Household items Business equipment and/or inventory
Quality items replaced with junk Appliances replaced with non-working (are they plugged in or connected) Business equipment and/or inventory Old or obsolete Does it appear to currently be in use Business records Open and exposed to fire Not in normal place Missing

Protect evidence at the scene Perform salvage and overhaul carefully, especially around area of origin Delay thorough salvage and overhaul until point of origin and cause have been determined Report all facts to officer in charge as soon as possible Officer in charge should maintain a chronologically written report

20 OBTAINING STATEMENTS Obtain all information possible pertaining to fire Allow owners and occupants of property to talk freely Do not attempt to interrogate a potential arson suspect Call a trained investigator to conduct the interview

21 OBTAINING STATEMENTS Report all information to officer in charge or investigator Never make statements of accusation, personal opinion or probable cause If investigator on site, personnel should make statements only to him/her Public statements are made only after investigator and ranking fire officer have agreed to accuracy and given permission for release

22 SECURING A FIRE SCENE Premises must be properly secured and guarded by fire department until investigator authorizes its release All evidence collected should be marked, tagged and photographed as collected Fire department has authority to bar access to premises during firefighting operations and for a reasonable time after suppression has been terminated Fire department authority ends when last member of department leaves the premises

VS 17–2 Cordoned-Off Areas/Signs Locked/Guarded Fences Blocked Entrances Boarded Doors/ Windows

24 OBTAINING STATEMENTS Fire personnel should not allow anyone to enter the scene without the investigator’s permission and only with authorized escort Should be documented in chronological written log A description of any items removed from the scene should be documented Premises should be cordoned off and guarded

25 LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS Two statements relevant based on Michigan vs. Taylor by US Supreme Court: “Once in a building (to extinguish a fire), firefighters may seize (without a warrant) evidence of arson that is in plain view….(and) officials need no warrant to remain in a building for a reasonable time to investigate the cause of the blaze after it has been extinguished.”

26 LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS “If there has been a fire, the blaze extinguished and the firefighters have left the premises, a warrant is required to re-enter and search the premises, unless there is consent…” If there is incendiary evidence, the department should leave at least one persons on the premises until an investigator arrives Local Authority Having Jurisdiction should write a standard operating procedure concerning these opinions

Firefighters should protect evidence, untouched and undisturbed if at all possible, until an investigator arrives If evidence is handled or procured, the firefighter must accurately document all actions as soon as possible, to maintain the chain of custody (evidence) Changes to evidence should be permitted only if absolutely necessary to extinguish the fire After investigator has collected evidence, careful overhaul of debris may begin, taking notice of any possible further evidence

VS 17–3 TAGGING & PACKING EVIDENCE Clear Glass Jar Resealable Plastic Bag New, Unused Paint Can

29 Homework 1. Responsibility to conduct an interview with a suspected arsonist rests with ___. a. A trained investigator c. The police department b. The first-arriving firefighter d. The incident commander 2. To whom does the firefighter or fire officer make statements of accusation, personal opinion, and probable cause? a. To the property owner c. To the fire investigator b. To the press d. To the property’s insurer 3. Why should firefighters never prematurely announce fire cause or make statements in jest at the scene? a. Fire cause is not a matter for public dissemination. b. Such statements should be reserved for the privacy of the fire station. c. Such statements may embarrass the fire department and hamper the legal process. d. Such statements can only be made by the chief. 4. What is a sufficient reply to any question concerning fire cause? a. “No comment.” b. “It is unlikely that we will be able to determine the cause of this fire.” c. “That information is confidential fire department data that cannot be released to the public.” d. “The fire is under investigation.”

30 Homework 5. How long should the premises be guarded and kept under the control of the fire department? a. For 60 days after completion of the operation b. Until all evidence has been gathered and evaluated by the fire investigator exactly as it appears c. Until after all court proceedings regarding the incident have been completed d. Until the property owner insists that the department vacate the premises 6. Why should all evidence be marked, tagged, and photographed before the last firefighter leaves the scene? a. Because that is a normally assigned duty of the last department person b. So that such activities do not interfere with tactical operations, they should be done last c. Because in many instances a search warrant or written consent to search will be needed for further visits to the premises d. To prevent damage to the delicate measuring instruments used in the collection of evidence 7. Firefighter A says that firefighters should secure the site and maintain security. Firefighter B says that departments may use law enforcement personnel to secure sites. Who is right? a. Firefighter A b. Firefighter B c. Both A and B d. Neither A nor B 8. When does fire department authority end? a. At each end of the first duty shift after the fire is extinguished b. As soon as last fire department representative leaves the scene c. Five work days after termination of the incident d. Upon issue of an order from the local courts

31 Homework 9. When the scene is secured, who should be allowed to enter the premises? a. No one unless accompanied by an authorized individual within local laws as applicable to property owners b. Only department personnel and members of the news media c. Only law enforcement officers d. No one except the fire investigators 10. When a person is authorized entry to the premises, what information should be recorded in the entry log? a. Person’s name, social security number, and description of any items taken from the scene b. Person’s name, times of entry and departure, and vehicle license number c. Person’s name, physical description, and social security number d. Person’s name, times of entry and departure, and description of any items taken from the scene 11. On what legal case was the decision to require a search warrant on return to premises based? a. Minnesota vs. Taylor (1988) b. Michigan vs. Tyler (1978) c. Mississippi vs. Tyson (1987) d. Wisconsin vs. Towson (1977)

32 Homework 12. What is the likely legal impact of reentering the premises without the owner’s written consent or a search warrant? a. Arrest of the fire chief b. Dissolution of the department c. Making prosecution or conviction of the alleged arsonist impossible d. The need to provide a chain of custody report to the court in order to admit evidence 13. Firefighter A says that the recommended action if there is incendiary evidence is to have someone watch the premises from nearby. Firefighter B says that the recommended action if there is incendiary evidence is to develop SOPs around the legal opinions applicable to the jurisdiction. Who is right? a. Firefighter A b. Firefighter B c. Both A and B d. Neither A nor B

33 Homework 14. What is the preferred way for a firefighter to deal with potential evidence that is found on site? a. To immediately recover it and place it in an area of safe storage b. To immediately cease salvage operations and notify the IC of the evidence so that Command can determine what to do c. To leave it untouched and undisturbed and to provide security for the area d. To cordon off the area during daytime operations or to mark it with a flare during nighttime operations 15. Under what circumstances should a firefighter gather and handle physical evidence? a. Whenever such evidence is discovered b. Whenever there will be more than a 12-hour delay in the arrival of the investigator c. Only if it is absolutely necessary to preserve the evidence d. Only if absolutely necessary to allow thorough overhaul and salvage 16. What must a firefighter do if he or she handles or procures evidence? a. Undergo decontamination. b. Testify in all related court proceedings. c. Accurately document all actions taken as soon as possible. d. Notify the fire investigator immediately.

34 Homework 17. What changes in the evidence should be allowed?
a. Those absolutely necessary in the extinguishment of the fire b. Those absolutely necessary to improve the quality of photographs that can be obtained c. Those absolutely necessary to remove evidence from toxic atmospheres d. None 18. What type of protection should be provided to partially burned papers and charred documents? a. They should be protected from drafts. b. They should be placed in plastic page protectors in three-ring binders. c. Individual photographs should be made of each page. d. Photocopies should be made of each page. 19. Firefighter A says that when protecting and preserving evidence, the firefighter should immediately package all evidence and transport it to the laboratory. Firefighter B says that when protecting and preserving evidence, evidence should be guarded where it is found — untouched and undisturbed — to preserve the chain of custody. Who is right? a. Firefighter A b. Firefighter B c. Both A and B d. Neither A nor B

35 Homework 20. What is the best method of preserving human footprints until plaster casts can be made? a. Covering them with a salvage cover b. Covering them with boxes c. Picking them up on a shovel and transferring them to a cardboard box d. Roping off the area When may debris be cleaned up? a. After fire cause has been determined b. Twenty-four hours after extinguishment c. After salvage operations have been performed d. After evidence has been properly collected 22. What should the firefighter not do when handling debris during cleanup? a. Separate unburned materials from the debris, clean these materials, and remove debris from the structure. b. Shovel debris into large containers and dump on street or sidewalk where there is little possibility of re-ignition and fire spread to nearby materials. c. Separate charred materials from the debris and remove from the structure. d. Shovel debris into large containers and dump in backyard or alley that is not visible to the public. 23. What should the firefighter who detects possible signs of arson do? a. Ensure that the evidence will not rekindle by drenching it with water. b. Prevent contamination of the evidence by packaging the evidence and removing it from the fire area. c. Protect it, untouched and undisturbed. d. Immediately report the evidence in writing to his or her superior or the police.


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