scholarly activity

Unit VI Scholarly Activity

Weight: 13% of course grade

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Grading Rubric


This unit is focused on the process of the investigation as it applies to process, safety, and case management. As part of the fire investigator’s responsibility, you will be required to manage supporting documents that illustrate you have followed proper processes and/or protocols. For this assignment, you will demonstrate how you will manage this process by creating documents and forms that can be used during an investigation.

You will create the following four documents for this assignment:

1. Develop a form that will be used to record all the needed incident basic information that will be included in the final investigation report.

2. Create a personal checklist of the equipment that would be needed in order to investigate fires in your jurisdiction.

3. Write an outline for a safety briefing that will be given to everyone involved in the investigations prior to making entry into the building where the fire occurred.

4. Create an interview form that can be completed when interviewing witnesses to incidents that are under investigation.

Each completed form must be one page in length for a total of four specific forms (form to record, checklist, outline, interview). You can create the four forms as separate documents or as one complete document and upload the forms in the assignment area. The four forms will be credited to a single grade for this unit.

FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 1

Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VI

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

5. Analyze the steps associated with conducting a fire investigation.
5.1 Organize the investigation steps prior to beginning the inspection.

8. Examine the procedures for fire scene documentation.

8.1 Establish a process for organizing the data collected from the scene of the investigation.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Activity


Unit Lesson
Chapter 11, pp. 212–228
Chapter 13, pp. 242–250
Chapter 27, pp. 456–466
Unit VI Scholarly Activity


Unit Lesson
Chapter 11, pp. 212–228
Chapter 13, pp. 242–250
Chapter 27, pp. 456–466
Unit VI Scholarly Activity

Required Unit Resources

Chapter 11: Safety, pp. 212–228

Chapter 13: Planning the Investigation, pp. 242–250

Chapter 27: Management of Complex Investigations, pp. 456–466

Unit Lesson


When looking at the process of investigating fires, scene inspection, documentation, and cause and origin all
come up in the conversation. What is not discussed, and should be, is the need to conduct the administrative
part of fire investigation. When thinking of the administrative part of the investigation, you should consider
collecting the necessary basic information, making sure specialists that may be needed are available, and
having the process in place to manage the case. This all needs to be done before the first photo is ever taken.
It is important to prepare for the investigation prior to arriving on site and to make sure that the right people
with the right equipment for the fire that is being investigated are there and ready to go. There also needs to

Administration and Planning

FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 2


be a consideration for safety prior to any investigation.
Consider the following questions as they pertain to

• Is there a safety plan?
• Do each of the investigators have the right

personal protective equipment (PPE) available
to them?

• Who is responsible for the overall safety?
• How is safety being managed after the fire is


The final piece of this unit is the need to understand how
to manage a complex investigation. Understanding how
to coordinate all of this information into a single
investigation will help the investigator be more efficient
at the tasks that are at hand.

Planning the Investigation

Recognizing what is happening on the scene of the fire
that needs to be investigated is the first step in the
process of conducting the investigation. Facts that are related to the incident must be gathered. The location
of the incident, date, time, and weather conditions at the time of the incident should also be recorded. The
description of the structure is also documented: the size of the structure, the use of the structure, the damage
done to the structure, how secure the scene was, and the possibility of securing the scene after the
investigation. The main question that needs to be answered up front is why was a call made to bring in an
investigator for this particular incident. Once all of this information is gathered, then the investigation should
be set up based on the investigator’s systematic process. The investigator should work with the first due
company officer to determine what was happening when he or she arrived and possibly bring that officer
along on the investigation to answer questions about the scene if he or she is available. Before making entry
to conduct the investigation, the investigator should make sure that those involved in the investigation
understand their roles and what needs to be done next.

For a fire investigator, there will be additional basic information used in incident reporting. This will include the
person reporting, person requesting the report, description of construction, possible motives related to the fire,
and a continued safety plan once the fire has been extinguished. Planning a fire investigation is essential as it
may involve additional manpower, such as private fire investigators and engineers for analyzing all aspects of

the fire, fuel sources, and
appliances (International
Association of Fire Chiefs
[IAFC], International
Association of Arson
Investigators [IAAI], &
National Fire Protection
Association [NFPA],
2019). It is important to
remember that the
complexity of the fire
scene will determine the
number of details that
surround the set of
circumstances and its

The other item that the investigator needs to be aware of is the need to manage the case that is part of the
fire investigation. The investigation can become complex, involving multiple agencies and various interested
parties trying to reach a conclusion together. All of the notes and sketches, not just final diagrams and
reports, must be kept organized and available throughout the investigation (IAFC et al., 2019). Once again, it

Investigation process elements

FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 3


comes down to the ability to have a systematic approach to what happens during an investigation. The
importance of communication between everyone involved in the investigation cannot be stressed enough;
without communication, things can occur that may hurt the case down the road. Coordinated planning of each
investigation is one of the most important parts of that investigation, whether it involves an entire team of
investigators or just one.


Structures that have been involved in a fire should be approached as possibly having structural integrity
issues; this fact cannot be stressed enough. A safe approach with caution in the process must be used. The
investigator is responsible for communicating with the incident commander and keeping them advised of what
is occurring with the investigation (IAFC et al., 2019). The ultimate responsibility for safety at the fire scene is
the incident commander and each individual working on the scene. Safety must be the number one priority of
the investigator as he or she approaches the scene.

Investigating the fire scene has been discussed throughout this course with reference to cause and origin or
evidence collection. There has been very little discussion as to the need to proceed safely when conducting
the investigation. The scene is under the incident commander’s control, but the investigator needs to take
precautions when he or she brings technical personnel on the scene to handle evidence collection or
photographs (IAFC et al., 2019). Technical personnel do not have formal training for fire scene safety like
firefighters. When the investigator brings someone on scene, he or she is responsible for the safety of that
person throughout the time investigating the fire. This includes making sure that all technical personnel are
wearing proper personal protective gear and have the ability to understand how each item is to be used. In
addition, the technical personnel needs to understand the inherent risk of breathing toxins on the scene of the

The investigator needs to also be aware that while investigating the fire scene alone, he or she is taking on
additional risks and must have a system in place to overcome those risks. The idea of entering a fire scene
alone should never cross the mind of an investigator; there should be someone inside with the investigator or
the department must know that the investigator is working alone. If when conducting an investigation, there is
no other person available, the investigator should have a process in place that requires check-ins and other
safety protocols to watch out for the safety of the investigator.

The fire investigator has the responsibility to ensure that all personnel working at the fire scene understand
the potential hazards that are associated with both the fire incident and the building (IAFC et al., 2019). This
includes firefighters and residents who may enter into hot zones without proper permission and personal
protective gear. Items such as power lines and open holes made by the fire should be well identified to
prevent injuries associated with the damage from fire exposure. It is the responsibility of the fire investigator to
identify these types of hazards by following department policy and posting personnel at these points or by
marking the areas with high visibility scene tape or safety cones to clearly identify the hazards. These types of
hazards can come in various forms, and the investigator must incorporate his or her situational awareness
skills to the potential for additional hazards as the scene develops, including the possibility of secondary
explosives, which can cause harm to first responders.

Entering the fire scene during active fire suppression efforts have specific hazards. The investigator should be
a trained and certified firefighter with knowledge of the mechanics of personal protective gear and how the
gear protects the fire investigator from direct exposure (IAFC et al., 2019). The fire investigator must have the
capability to recognize hazardous situations while operating under the incident management system. He or
she must have a general knowledge of the factors that influence safety at the fire scene including the stability
of the building, the stage of the fire, and other potential risk factors resulting from the fire itself.

When identifying a hazard, the fire investigator must provide an effective way to deal with risk factors. These
types of hazard factors fall into three categories. The first category is engineering controls, such as shoring or
reinforcing a structure to prevent a collapse. The second category is administrative controls that isolate an
area through signage, barrier tape, and notification to firefighters. The third category is the usage of personal
protective equipment that is deemed necessary for the various environments in which a fire investigator would
enter to conduct a fire investigation.

FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 4


The fire investigator must also assume that all utilities are still operational until completely shut down by the
utility providers. Electrical and natural gas services are the common utilities that are found during field

When conducting a fire investigation, the fire investigator needs to be prepared with the proper tools and skills
as well as some of the basic safety equipment for protection from the identified hazards. He or she also needs
to be ready to oversee the safety of the other investigators who come on the scene to assist.

Management of Complex Investigations

When investigating a complex incident where there are multiple interested parties, the lead investigator needs
to be aware that various parties may have an interest in the information from the investigation. A good
example of this would be a high rise building where the owner of the building, the various tenants, and their
insurance companies all have an interest in what happened with the incident. The most important task with a
complex investigation is to maintain the safety of all of the parties who are on the scene. Remembering that
the individuals who show up on the scene most likely will not have any fire suppression training. The priority
of the investigation will also be to find the cause and origin, collect and preserve all evidence, and hold the
party who caused a chargeable fire responsible.


The fire investigator should develop a plan for each investigation before any of the actual fact-gathering
begins. The plan should be systematic and should follow a process that is almost automatic for the
investigator to follow. He or she is responsible for the investigation team’s safety as the investigation
proceeds through to the conclusion. The investigator also needs to communicate with the interested parties
even if all of the information cannot be shared at that time.


International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Arson Investigators, & National Fire

Protection Association. (2019). Fire investigator: Principles and practice to NFPA 921 and 1033 (5th
ed.). Jones & Bartlett.

Suggested Unit Resources

In order to access the following resources, click the links below.

This article, which covers the study of firefighter maydays and the risk factors encountered, should assist in

understanding fire scene hazards.

Abbott, D. (2016). The Mayday Project: Tracking fire service maydays can improve training and fireground

safety. Firehouse, 41(2), 46–48. https://search-proquest-

This article outlines the reconstruction of an arson scene and how the technical advisor can assist the

Chi, J.-H. (2013). Using thermal analysis experiment and fire dynamics simulator (FDS) to reconstruct an

arson fire scene. Journal of Thermal Analysis & Calorimetry, 113(2), 641–648.

FIR 4315, Fire Investigation Technician 5


This article outlines changes in the law in reference to fire safety in Great Britain.

Everton, A. R. (2004). Fire safety law reform: The bill, the framework and the order. Fire Safety Engineering,
11(4), 10–12.

Learning Activities (Nongraded)

Nongraded Learning Activities are provided to aid students in their course of study. You do not have to submit
them. If you have questions, contact your instructor for further guidance and information.

This is an opportunity for you to express your thoughts about the material you are studying by writing about it.
Conceptual thinking is a great way to study because it gives you a chance to process what you have learned
and increases your ability to remember it.

Before completing your graded work, consider completing the “Case Study” and “On Scene” exercises for
Chapters 11, 13, and 27. Completing these exercises will help you with your graded work.

The exercises can be found on the following page numbers:

Chapter 11: “Case Study,” p. 212
Chapter 11: “On Scene,” p. 228
Chapter 13: “Case Study,” p. 242
Chapter 13: “On Scene,” pp. 249-250
Chapter 27: “Case Study,” p. 456
Chapter 27: “On Scene,” p. 466

If you have any questions or do not understand a concept, contact your professor for clarification.

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