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Fire Investigation: The First Responder's Role

Firefighters play a crucial role in successful fire investigations. As a firefighter, you are not just a first responder to the fire, but a first responder to the fire investigation as well.

You are the eyes and ears of the professionals who investigate fires to determine their origin and cause. As with any structure, the foundation is the most important part. Firefighters lay the foundation for the scene examination.

If you are aware of the scene, you can play a vital role in preserving clues for the fire investigators.

fire truck

Responding to the scene

  • Did you see a car speeding away from the scene of the fire?
  • Did you observe any weather events that could explain the fire?
  • Did you pass a utility truck working on the electric lines down the street on the way to the scene?
  • Did you see a familiar person with bystanders that you noticed at another incident?
  • Was access to the property made extremely difficult?


  • What did you observe on your 360?
  • Did you see what looked like a possible incendiary device?
  • Did you observe holes in the walls, ceiling or flooring that would help the fire spread?
  • Was the appliance plugged in before you moved it?
  • Were there obvious multiple fires throughout the property?
  • Did you discover any tampering or impedance to building fire protection systems?
  • Were combustibles too close to an operating heat source?
fire truck


  • Did you implement any flow path controls?
  • Did you apply a SLICERS fire attack?
  • Did you use the proper hose stream? Hose stream management can positively affect the outcome of a fire investigation.

After the fire

  • Were any contents obviously missing or removed prior to the fire?
  • Did you discover evidence of another crime (burglary, vandalism, homicide)?
  • What did the occupants say about the location of origin or the cause of the fire?
  • Do not overhaul prior to the arrival of the fire investigator.