In What Fire Scene Responders Need to Know in Tough Economic Times (Part 1), fire expert witness and Principal of Pyrocop Inc., Robert Rowe writes:
Fire investigation is one of the most difficult of the forensic sciences to practice and as the motivations for arson increase, so too may the need for professional investigators. In most forensic disciplines, even the basic question of whether a crime has been committed is in most cases obvious. However, unlike most crime scenes, a fire scene requires a thorough and systematic examination to determine the cause as arson.
A fire investigator must closely evaluate the evidence that is left behind after a fire and, from that evidence, glean as much information as possible to reconstruct the chain of events that occurred in the moments leading up to the fire.
As fires can be caused by or involve most things people see or use, the role of a fire investigator requires a multidisciplinary base. A fire investigator is required to have a full understanding of not only basic science of fire behavior, but knowledge of different areas of study including construction, electricity, human behavior, and vehicles.
When a fire appears to be suspicious, it is critical that those who first walk into a fire scene have the basic tools necessary to identify indicators of a suspicious fire and know the necessary steps they must take to:
1. Preserve the evidence and 2. Make the appropriate notifications to request a Professional Fire Investigator
With the recent wave of home mortgage foreclosures one begins to question whether or not there may be a link between arson and trends in the economy, particularly recessions. In hard times, it is not unusual for local fire officials and insurance adjusters in some communities to report apparent jumps in some types of arson.