SURFING THE INTERNET FOR FIRE INVESTIGATORS

by Tony Cafe

n.b. This article, originally published in 1996, contains links to external sites which are no longer valid. If you have information regarding updated URL's please contact us

Traditionally fire investigators have relied on magazines and conferences to communicate their views and opinion. During the last few years the Internet has become an increasingly popular means of communication. The appeal of the Internet is that there is an inexhaustible amount of information available which can be freely accessed by users from all around the world.

The Internet originated in the USA and was designed for defence purposes in the event of a nuclear war. The idea of linking computers together was developed so that if one computer was knocked out by a nuclear strike then the others would take over control of the defence system. The Internet is still dominated by the USA and it has allowed middle America to be let off its creative leash so to speak.

To access the Internet requires a computer with the appropriate software, a modem to connect the computer to the telephone line and a service provider which is a local computer company who connects your call onto the Internet. Once on-line, you can access either newsgroups, the world wide web or you can use electronic mail (e-mail) to send an instant message. In the USA and recently in Australia, authorities and private fire investigators have established their own world wide web sites which are essentially electronic pages complete with articles, photographs and information. To find a site of interest the user first sends out a search command using key words such as "fire investigation" and will then be supplied with a list of related sites. After finding a site, one can visit other linked sites which are recommended as being of interest. After a short while the user (surfer) finds that the only effort required to enjoy the Internet is to control the computer mouse.

World Wide Web (WWW)

The following is a brief review of some web sites which should be of interest to fire investigators and other members of our organisation.

n.b. This article, originally published in 1996, contains links to external sites which are no longer valid. If you have information regarding updated URL's please contact us

National Investigative Consultancy

http://www.farpointfx.com/nic

This site is maintained by Joseph M. Ellington and is a very good place to start searching for fire investigation sites. Some time ago I received an e-mail from Joe and he indicated he wanted to build a site which was educational rather than a site which was merely a company brochure. Joe Ellington has built a comprehensive educational resource which includes articles and case files which are well documented with extensive text and photographs. The site also has a list of recent US recall notices and links to other web sites.

National Fire Protection Association of USA

http://www.nfpa.org

This is an extensive site dealing with all aspects of fires. There is a comprehensive section dealing with fire investigation including the full report of the investigation of the Oklahoma bombing.

International Association of Arson Investigators

http://www.firearson.com/

The parent organisation for our own IAAI and AFI chapters. At this site is the opportunity to join the IAAI electronically and to buy IAAI merchandise such as fire investigation publications. The recent winners of their photo competition can be viewed and a list of their forth coming seminars is provided. There is also an opportunity for local chapters to have their own web page of news and events which should be of interest to us. Visitors can leave their e-mail address so they can be immediately notified of any updates of the site.

Blaze Fire Investigation & Consultancy Service

http://www.blazefireinvestigation.com/

The proprietor of this company is Robert Leonard and his site features some of his fire photos and his sniffer dog who coincidentally is called Blaze.

Australian Consumers Association

http://www.choice.com.au/

Choice magazine is produced by ACA and the value of Choice to fire investigators is that for several years now it has collated recall notices. Now this information is available at the ACA web site which includes a search engine which saves having to read all of the recall notices.

Insurance Claims Investigation

http://www.pimall.com/nais/bkp.insur.html

This site provides a list of books which can be ordered by e-mail. The titles of some of these are "How to Conduct Investigations & Market Insurance Services" by Neil Argraves, "The Investigation of Motor Vehicle Fires" and "The Investigation of Boat Fires" both by Lee S Cole, "Fire Investigation for Private Investigators" by Charles B Hobson, "How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim" by Attorney Joseph L Mathews and "Guidelines, Formats, Procedures, Forms & Philosophy for Insurance Claims Investigators" by Bill Kizorek & Scott Finger.

NASA Radiative Ignition & Transition to Spread Investigation (RITSI)

http://zeta.lerc.nasa.gov/expr/ritsi.htm

NASA details an experiment which they have conducted to determine the fire hazards associated with space travel. Some very special equipment called a RITSI Glovebox is shown as well as some interesting photographs of flame spread in the Glovebox. Links to the enormous NASA web site are provided.

Special Agent - Arson Investigator

http://www.state.ia.us/government/dps/firesa.html

The Iowa Department of Public Safety has a job available for an arson investigator and this site lists the job description, requirements, pay scale ($US34K-43K) and benefits which include 11 paid holidays per year, 1 sick day per month and 10 days holiday in the first year.

Aircraft Fire Protection Association

http://members.aol.com/robertposh/private/afp/homepage.htm

Details are provided of a course on offer which provides a basic understanding of combustion theory and the application of this knowledge to aircraft fire protection and mishap/accidental fire pattern investigation. The course runs from 5th-9th August 1996 and is being conducted at Dayton Ohio.

United Kingdom Police & Forensic Web

http://www.innotts.co.uk/~mick2me/mainpage.html

This site is currently being constructed and should be of future interest because the UK has produced some excellent fire investigators, some of whom have came to Australia in recent years to address our conferences.

The National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory

http://ash.lab.r1.fws.gov/labweb/for-lab.htm

While the title may suggest this site to be of little interest to fire investigators, it does provide a tour of their forensic lab and access to their quality control manual. The quality control at some of Australia’s forensic laboratories has been questioned in recent years and this site is a rare opportunity to see how the US government manage their own forensic laboratories.

Dr Joe Davis Forensic Science Network

http://somt.nu.edu/~jdavis/Forensics/Forensicnet.html

There are few people of Dr Joe’s calibre - they are rare indeed and provide true inspiration to us all. This is one of the most extensive web sites encountered and provides articles and links in all aspects of forensic science. Dr Joe’s site includes photographs of himself hovering over some skeletal remains in the field just to prove he really does do this type of work.

Firenet

http://www.anu.edu.au/Forestry/fire/firenet.html

This is an Australian site which is based at the Australian National University. It concentrates on bush fires, fuel loads and the fighting of bush fires and has a wide range of international links which deal with all aspects of bush fires management. There are listings of computer software which deal with bush fires.

Current NSW Fire Status

http://www.netwit.net.au/~bushfire/firensw.htm

This site list the current status of fires throughout the regions of NSW. At the time of viewing the last update was 28th January 1996 and lists there were no on going fires throughout NSW. Shows what a little rain will do.

Bushfire

http://www.netwit.net.au/~bushfire/bfire.htm

A site from Mudgee NSW which again deals with bush fires and is maintained by John Travers & Associates - Bushfire Protection Planning and Bushfire Management Consultants. One of its feature links is the Complete 1994 Coronial Enquiry into the NSW bush fires.

Newsgroups and E-Mail

Newsgroups are sites where people can read and lodge messages related to a particular topic. There are few available which could be of interest to fire investigators. There is a group available called alt.private.investigator where investigators mostly from the USA discuss topical issues.

The number of web sites is growing rapidly as more and more people have access to software which enables them to construct their own web pages. Once your own web site is established then in will come the e-mail from people who have visited your site and wish to send either a warm cheerio or a job application or they are curious people who are fascinated by the world of fire investigation.

I have received some interesting e-mail from people all around the world, some who have been unhappy with the outcome of an investigation of a fire which they were associated with. One lady in Canada wanted me to solve a mobile home fire by giving me the clues through e-mail. It's an interesting way of investigating fires but I declined from taking on the job (the money was lousy). Another e-mail of note was from "Dr Terry Polevoy - The Tobacco Terminator" and the e-mail was titled "Mothers Who Kill Children". I’ll share his letter with you and if anyone would like to reply I’ll gladly supply his e-mail address.

Three separate fatal fires have occurred in our area over the last 2 years. The pattern is this: single mothers, estranged from boyfriends, recently moved, multiple fathers, 8 dead in the three fires. Mother had possession of weapon (cigarette lighter), and the actual event was always blamed on 2 or three year old playing with same. Possible, probable or a bunch of garbage. The blame in all cases have been cigarette lighters. No one believes it was anything but an accident. No one wants to call a coroners inquest. We have screamed until we are blue in the face. How does one prove intent? How does one convince the government agencies to get involved? Is there anyone you can think of who might be able to shed light on parents who kill their kids, and conveniently blame the cigarette lighter. Oh yes, no one ever has a working smoke alarm, even when apartments and town houses are owned by the city, or county, and should have had them installed and working before renting out the home. Help is appreciated. Terry Polevoy.


Also published in "Firepoint" magazine, September 1996

n.b. This article, originally published in 1996, contains links to external sites which are no longer valid. If you have information regarding updated URL's please contact us