Fire investigation is a tasking undertaking. The investigator has to deal with charred debris, poisonous smoke, and pungent smell. Fire investigators should be aware of the dangers associated with their work. They have to put on protective clothing and carry a personal respiratory apparatus to protect them against hazardous gases and smoke. In addition, they are required to carry out scientific interviews to properly evaluate the arson scene. The exercise calls for appropriately trained personnel.
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Investigating a fire is not a simple task. The investigator has to deal with the charred debris, the smoke, and the stench. Fire investigators should be aware of the imminent dangers associated with their work. Consequently, they have to wear protective clothing for their safety. It is important for the personnel to be trained and experienced in fire investigations (Bryant, 2011). They should have the tools required to carry out the exercise. In this paper, a number of safety procedures associated with arson investigation are discussed.
Personal Protection Items Required by Arson Investigators
The tools that an investigator should have at the scene of fire are identified by the chief investigator. The items include firefighters’ pants, jackets, boots, helmets, and respirators. Other items are gloves, dust masks, and safety glasses (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996). In some instances, an arson investigator may require access to excavation equipment. Basic tools include a hammer, a crowbar, and a chisel. Razor blades and wire cutters may also be required (Lentini, 2012). Other personal items needed by arson investigators include biohazard bags, flashlights with extra battery markers, crime scene barricade tapes, and measuring devices. Finally, to carry out their work, arson investigators also require, among others, evidence seals and body fluid collection kits (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996).
Types of Lighting Systems Required in an Arson Scene
A fire investigator should carry an ultraviolet (UV) light. It is a simple but reliable and cost-effective tool that can aid in arson investigation. The UV light assists in identifying and locating accelerant residues (Lentini, 2012). The light can also help in identifying where the fire started from. Another lighting tool that a fire investigator should carry to an arson scene is a powerful and intense white light. The light allows the investigator to uncover any evidence that may not be easily noticed. Such evidence includes dust impressions, fibers, and shoe prints (Lentini, 2012).
Critical Safety Equipment for Head-to-Toe Protection
The apparatus used as protection by fire investigators are referred to as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The PPE consists of protective clothing and breathing apparatus. There is also personal alert systems and eye protection (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996). The items provide an arson investigator with head-to-toe protection (Bryant, 2011).
The protective clothing is made-up of a jacket, pants, and a helmet. It also includes gloves and boots. The clothing is designed to provide head-to-toe safety for the fireman during various types of fire incidences (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996). It is also used as protection against possible injuries.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
The breathing apparatus is used to provide respiratory protection. It is especially important in situations that could have dangerous gases. Such situations include incidences of arson characterized by oxygen deficiency, elevated temperatures, toxic gases, and smoke (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996).
Personal Alert Systems
The system is commonly known as a PASS device (Diamantes, 2015). It is used to alert other firefighting personnel that the user is in distress and in need of help. It is designed to raise the alarm if the user remains motionless for 30 seconds (Redsicker & O’Connor, 1996). The device can also be activated manually should the user require immediate assistance.
Safety glasses, goggles, and face shields are important components of a fire investigators’ personal protective gear (Beyler, 2009). The ensemble protects the firefighter from injuries to the eyes (Beyler, 2009).
Minimum Number of Investigators at an Arson Scene
A fire investigation scene should have at least two investigators for safety reasons (James, Nordby, & Bell, 2014). An arson scene is a dangerous situation. A single investigator may be exposed to harm. Investigators should also maintain regular contact with the fire station office. Communication between the two teams should occur at an interval of 15 minutes. Two investigators are able to consult and communicate with each other. They are also able to assess the situation (Diamantes, 2015).
The Importance of Conducting Scientific Interviews
It is important for fire investigators to conduct scientific interviews. The interviews can be used to determine the cause of the fire, its area of ignition, and the conditions that led to its spread (James et al., 2014). They can also be used to provide information to help in the recreation of a fire scene. They are also necessary for the assessment of the spread and development of the fire.
Fire investigation is a hazardous exercise. Consequently, an arson investigator has to wear protective clothing and be trained on how to conduct scientific interviews in the process of assessing a fire. The scientific interviews help the investigator to access important information and materials. Fire investigation should be carried out by trained personnel who are aware of the safety issues involved in the exercise.
Bryant, C. (Ed.). (2011). The Routledge handbook of deviant behavior. London, UK: Routledge.
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Diamantes, D. (2015). Principles of fire prevention (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
James, S., Nordby, J., & Bell, S. (Eds.). (2014). Forensic science: An introduction to scientific and investigative techniques (4th ed.). London, UK: CRC Press.
Lentini, J. (2012). Scientific protocols for fire investigation (2nd ed.). London, UK: CRC Press.
Redsicker, D., & O’Connor, J. (1996). Practical fire and arson investigation (2nd ed.). New York, NY: CRC Press.