Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-52-12

Fire Investigation Practices

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-52-12

Section

Fire Prevention and Public Education

Date

August 1998

Subject

Fire Investigation Practices

Page

Under Review

Purpose:

To identify fire department responsibilities for determining the origin and cause of fires and taking appropriate action.

Introduction:

The preliminary investigation of cause, origin and circumstances of fire is a responsibility of local fire departments and is an essential component of fire protection.

Determining cause and origin:

The key function of a fire investigator is to adequately determine the cause and origin of fires.

For fire department personnel to adequately determine the origin and cause of fires, basic training in arson detection would be required, followed by advanced training in arson investigation. The effectiveness of the training should be validated by a period of supervised investigations by a qualified fire service investigator to at least the minimum level of the Ontario Fire Services Company Officer Standard.
 

Assessing Fire Suppression Effectiveness:

After each fire, a de-briefing should be held to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the fire suppression operations used. A summary of the assessment should be documented and utilized to recognize and avoid possible problems in future incidents.

Recognizing Fire or Building Code Violations:

During the course of an investigation, the trained investigator should be able to assess code compliance and be able to recognize critical violations to ensure continued public safety.

Determining Effectiveness Of Built-In Suppression Features:

When a built-in suppression feature is encountered during the course of an investigation the following points must be considered:
- did the system activate and function as intended? If not, why    not?
- did it malfunction through accident or fail by design?
- was the installed system adequate for the intended occupancy?

Interaction With OFM Investigator:

The capability and the confidence instilled in the fire company investigator through interaction with the OFM investigator will provide the police with a competent and reliable witness when criminal prosecutions are undertaken.

Consulting With Police And Other Agencies:

Through the course of investigation training, fire personnel must be made aware of the agencies available for consultation and assistance, what assistance they can provide, as well as when and how the assistance of those agencies can be secured.

Providing Forensic Services:

The fire investigator must be trained in the proper collection, preservation, and maintenance of continuity of evidence so that the submitted exhibits can be analyzed by the Centre of Forensic Sciences and its results be made admissible in court.
Through training, the fire company investigator will become aware of the need for continuous documentation of the incident from his first involvement through to a successful completion.
The fire company investigator must learn that the accepted methods of gathering and recording information must be adhered to in order to be admissible in court proceedings.
The content of the fire company investigator's personal notebook becomes the basis for the information needed to complete a confidential brief to crown counsel. All information gathered during the course of the investigation becomes part of the permanent record and is therefore subject to disclosure.
The fire company investigator must not only be professional in knowledge and attitude, but also in appearance and decorum, affording the respect which is due the court being addressed. A judge and/or jury may well decide the credibility of the investigator's testimony depending upon their first impression.
 

Codes, Standards, and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/ . Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

See also PFSG
04-39-12 Fire Prevention Effectiveness Model
04-56-12 Use of Fire Related Statistics