For Immediate Release - November 23, 2016

Fire and Police Graduate Basic Fire Investigation Course

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Massachusetts Firefighting Academy Deputy Director Joseph Klucznik are pleased to announce that 64 public safety officers have completed the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy’s six-day Basic Fire Investigation course. This rigorous professional training provides fire, and state and local police officers with the technical skills to accurately determine the origin and cause of fires in their jurisdictions and together, build solid, prosecutable cases.

Team Concept of Fire Investigation
State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “The team concept of fire investigation has been used successfully in Massachusetts for over 20 years and it starts with joint training.” He added, “When police and fire are trained in the same techniques and procedures together, the consistency leads to accurate origin and cause determinations, and when arson is the cause, solid criminal cases. This course provides students with the most current techniques for determining the origin and cause of fires. They are exposed to the investigatory process as outlined in the National Fire Protection Association Standard 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations.”

The six-day basic fire investigation course covers the concepts of witness interviewing, fire behavior, scene examination, fire scene documentation, and evidence collection. Students must pass a written exam. The program covers unintentional fires, intentionally set fires, automobile fires, fatal fires and wild land fires.

64 Graduates: 39 Firefighters, 21 Local Police & Four State Police Officers
The 64 graduates, including 39 firefighters, 21 local police officers, three Massachusetts State Police officers, and one DFS code compliance officer, represent the following 57 agencies:

Arlington Fire Department Boston Fire Department
Beverly Fire Department Boston Police Department
Braintree Fire Department Longmeadow Fire Department
Bridgewater Fire Department Marlborough Fire Department
Bridgewater Police Department Mass State Police
Brockton Police Department Methuen Fire Department
Canton Fire Department Methuen Police Department
Danvers Fire Department New Bedford Fire Department
Department of Fire Services Newton Fire Department
Dudley Fire Department Newton Police Department
Easton Fire & Rescue Department North Andover Fire Department
Easton Police Department North Andover Police Department
Everett Fire Department Reading Fire Department
Fall River Fire Department Reading Police Department
Fall River Police Department Saugus Fire Department
Gardner Fire Department Swampscott Fire Department
Gardner Police Department Watertown Fire Department
Hingham Fire Department Watertown Police Department
Holyoke Police Department Webster Fire Department
Hopkinton Fire Department West Newbury Fire Department
Hopkinton Police Department Westborough Fire Department
Hudson Fire Department Westborough Police Department
Hudson Police Department Westfield Fire Department
Kingston Fire Department Woburn Fire Department
Kingston Police Department Woburn Police Department
Lawrence Fire Department Worcester Fire Department
Lexington Police Department Worcester Police Department

Origin and Cause Determination
Fire investigators work to first determine the point of origin of a fire and then its cause. Once they are able to determine the point of origin, they often rely on witness statements to identify the possible sources of ignition at that point and then work to systematically eliminate each one, until they are left with only one most probable cause.

Fire investigators are trained to examine a fire scene by going from the minimum amount of burn damage to the point or points with the maximum amount of burn damage. The rationale being that the fire has been burning longest where the most damage is and that is often where the fire began. In addition, they learn to analyze burn patterns that can reveal how the fire spread and how long it burned. They learn how to effectively collect evidence samples, how and when to avail themselves of resources such as accelerant-detection canines, state police fire investigators in the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and technical experts such as electricians.

Witness-Driven Protocol
Massachusetts uses a witness-driven protocol of fire investigation. Investigators want to interview people who know the building or saw the fire start as quickly as possible while memories are fresh or before those displaced by the fire become hard to locate. Investigators compare the witness statements to the evidence found in the forensic scene examination to determine the cause of the fire. With possibly a large number of people to interview quickly, the benefit of the added manpower a team investigation brings is obvious. Investigators compare notes and often need to re-interview witnesses for clarification. A deep understanding of fire behavior is essential to evaluating witness statements.

Ostroskey said, “It is a challenge to determine the cause of the fire when so much of the needed evidence is destroyed by the fire itself. This training provides our local fire and police investigators with the skills and knowledge to meet that challenge.”

This course was developed in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 921 – Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations and the NFPA Standard 1033 for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator

The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, a division of the Department of Fire Services, offers this program, tuition-free.