Usually, fire events that involve injuries or death will be investigated by experts. These experts are hired by a lawyer or insurance company to investigate the incident and identify the cause and origin of the fire. In order for the investigation to succeed, the following steps must be followed:
Evaluating and Preserving the Fire Scene
Typically, fire investigations are carried out alongside fire-fighting activities. The first responder will check if people or vehicles are leaving the scene. Also, they determine the building’s condition. Firefighters and investigators should handle the site carefully. Otherwise, they may destroy important evidence that can be used for determining the fire’s cause. This evidence can include fingerprints, footprints, and fire patterns which can be destroyed when washed away as firemen deals with the fire or when handled improperly. They have to ensure circuit breaker knobs and switches, as well as appliances, are not removed. Also, it is necessary to maintain a safe fire scene when doing a fire investigation since some areas of the building might no longer be structurally sound and could collapse anytime. Also, toxic materials might be present along with some ashes which could irritate the eyes and lungs.
Determining where the Fire Started
Finding the fire’s origin is the next step in analyzing the root cause of a fire. Such a location is expected to be seriously damaged that it can be totally destroyed. In bigger structures, the origin of the fire is likely to be buried under rubble because of serious structural damage. Usually, a fire investigator may look for evidence to determine the cause of the fire that can be a candle, stove, electrical appliance, or accelerant. The kitchen is where most fires take place. A fire testing is always essential as a fire can occur because of unattended cooking equipment that ignites something flammable.
When determining the cause of a fire, it is essential to know how the fire spread. As with other kinds of heat, fire can spread through the following ways:
- Radiation. This is when a fire spreads outward as the heat begins to warm up nearby objects that also ignite later.
- Conduction. This takes place when there’s a direct contact with hot objects or fire.
- Convection. In this situation, the fire spreads upward because of the presence of heated air. Convection can often include a spread to the staircase and other open areas.
Identifying the Cause of the Fire
Causes of fire can be easy to identify like candles, lighters, or matches. However, causes such as faulty electrical wires or equipment are not easy to investigate because the fire might have destroyed the object that started it. Also, even if an electrical failure exists, this does not mean the fire is caused by the failure itself. But, fires are usually caused by loose connections within the outlet which may arc and ignite its surrounding metal. Fire investigations will usually include checking check for outlets which may have been overloaded with power strips and extension cords. Also, if lighting fixtures fail, they may cause the light to overheat and burn. Sometimes, the fire may be intended. In this case, the cause of the fire is arson.