How well do you work with your departments investigative unit? I can speak on behalf of both sides of this argument as I have been tasked with both roles. I spent many years as a line firefighter before moving into investigations. I always paid close attention to the details of the fire as I worked to extinguish it, however I was one of the few. I can attribute my attention to details of this sort to a Deputy State Fire Marshal with whom I dug a scene with the first week as a firefighter. He took the time to share with me the thought process behind investigation when I was only a week onto the job. That outlook has intrigued me ever since. That is why I found myself paying close attention to the details upon arrival as a first in firefighter. However, I have also experienced those firefighters that are not so observant. While I take nothing away from these guys, many of which were great firefighters they simply didn't care if they left the investigative unit a fighting chance.
I encourage each of you to pay closer attention to the details as you arrive on scene of a fire. Has the fire already vented? If so where? Were the doors open or closed? Did you have to break any windows? If so which ones and in which order? Did you witness anyone leaving the structure upon your arrival? Do you see familiar faces in the crowd? All of these questions are things that as a firefighter you should be prepared to answer when the investigative unit arrives on scene. Why you ask, well lets take a brief look at why we investigate fires. Fire investigators are looking at several things once the origin and cause have been determined. Was there a criminal act involved? Was there a product malfunction? Did the owner or occupant do something that they shouldn't have that started this fire? All of these questions and many more get asked at every investigation. We ask these questions because we want to bring to justice anyone who commits a criminal act. We want to ensure that if a product is responsible for starting the fire that we prevent it from happening in others homes. We want to know if the act that contributed to this fire was simply due to the owner occupant not being educated on fire safety principals.
As firefighters we took an oath to protect life and property against the threat of fire. What better way to do this than by preventing fire in the first place? If a criminal act was involved and that individual is in jail then he can't start any more fires. If a product malfunctioned we can work to ensure that the product is recalled before it causes further damage to life and property. If the owner/occupant needs education, then we can provide those messages to them. All investigations are designed to prevent future fires. With the prevention of fire we have the ability to not only reduce civilian fatalities, but we can also reduce the number of LODD's as a result of fire.
I encourage each of you who read this to spend some time speaking with the investigators in your area, and find out what types of things they would like for you to pay attention to. By assisting the investigative units at your respective departments, you can have a profound impact on the prevention of fire. This ultimately allows you to stand up to your oath that you took when you signed up for the greatest job in the world.