The "Team Concept" in Action

In 1992, an ongoing structural arson epidemic in Lawrence, Massachusetts attracted negative, national media attention. A multi-agency Arson Task Force was formed in May 1992 by investigators from the Lawrence Fire and Police Departments, Massachusetts State Fire Marshal's Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

 

Photo of on upper floor of a badly burned building with holes through the floor and walls missing.

The Lawrence Arson Task Force, while in full operation between May and October 1992, cut the incidence of arson fires in Lawrence by half each month until arson fires in the city virtually stopped. The joint agency "team" approach worked so well that we have adopted the "team" approach for every serious fire or explosion investigation.

The United State Fire Administration sponsored production of a video and manual that explains the innovations and strategies used in the Lawrence Arson Task Force. This program will be of use to any Arson Prevention and Control Unit leader. The program entitled, It Can Happen Anywhere is available through the National Fire Academy at the U.S. Fire Administration.

The Fire Investigation Guideline, developed jointly by the Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit and an arson prosecutor , uses a witness driven and team method of fire investigation. This protocol has dramatically improved arson case prosecution results by using a coordinated, rapid response approach that analyses arson case solvability factors early on. The National Fire Academy adopted this technique for training Arson Prevention and Control Unit leaders nationally. The American Re-Insurance Company film entitled "Motive, Means, & Opportunity" highlights this method. A copy of this program will also be available soon through the National Fire Academy.

The Pocket Guide to Accelerant Evidence Collection was developed in Massachusetts by a team of local, state, federal, and private sector fire arson investigators. This publication is listed as a reference by NFPA 921 (1995 edition) and is sold nationwide. Information about obtaining a copy can be obtained by writing the Mass Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators at "Pocket Guide," Mass Chapter IAAI, 444B Broadway, Suite 281, Saugus, MA 01906-1995.

Fire and Explosion Investigation Section