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Coffee Break Bulletin

Accelerate Your Professional Development as a Fire Investigator

Posted: May 3, 2022 by Kevin Oliver, NFA training specialist

The National Fire Academy (NFA) adds 5 new courses to its fire investigation curriculum.

The NFA’s fire investigation curriculum provides students with training that features cutting-edge technology, up-to-date legal information and proven teaching techniques from professional trainers with experience in the field.

Why should I consider attending fire investigation training?

By taking these courses, you will improve your job performance with the most up-to-date science and techniques for modern fire investigation. You will also increase your knowledge of how to pursue arson cases through the judicial system. These courses position you for growth in your department and in the industry.

Seasoned instructors make the difference in NFA fire investigation training. Our courses are offered through a partnership between the U.S. Fire Administration's (USFA's) NFA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). You will learn from experts with deep experience in the field fighting fires, investigating fires and working within the legal system (civil and criminal) to provide evidence and testimony.

What students are saying

Student feedback

I had minimal knowledge of the topic and a lot of questions. What I learned from this class easily exceeded any expectation.

“Fire Investigation: Electrical Systems,” R0776
Student feedback

This was probably the most intense but best course that I have taken. Instructors were top notch and extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the course.

“Fire Investigation: Essentials,” R0772
Student feedback

Recently, I was able to rule out electrical causation for a potentially criminal fire. If I need to testify in court, this will greatly strengthen my case, and show my adherence to the scientific method in my investigation.

“Fire Investigation: Electrical Systems,” R0776
Student feedback

I have conducted fire investigations for over 15 years, yet this course gave me a better understanding of how fire works and why things burn the way they do in different scenes.

“Fire Investigation: Essentials,” R0772

As a supervisor, why should I send personnel to NFA fire investigation training?

The better your team, the better you serve your community by saving lives and reducing property loss. Specifically, NFA fire investigation training will help give you and your team more confidence in the conclusions made regarding the origin of fires being investigated. Along with that additional confidence, these courses can increase your organizational efficiency in the field and in the documenting and reporting of fire investigations.

Supervisors who have firefighters and first responders take the courses offer this feedback:

Supervisor feedback

The class has increased [the student's] knowledge of fire investigations exponentially. This class has assisted him greatly in the composition of his origin and cause reports, and his confidence in approaching a variety of different fire scenes.”

“Fire Investigation: Essentials,” R0772
Supervisor feedback

The employee is better equipped to understand the role of electricity and electrical components during fire investigations and has a greater ability to rule in or out electrical causes during fire investigations.

“Fire Investigation: Electrical Systems,” R0776
Supervisor feedback

I have seen an increase in his confidence when he makes a fire cause determination that either supports an electrical causation or rules it out. He has also been mentoring our newer investigators with the knowledge he gained from this course both in how to evaluate the electrical system in their fire investigations, as well as how to properly document their findings.

“Fire Investigation: Electrical Systems,” R0776

Attendees benefit from essential hands-on training

In addition to classroom instruction, there are 2 facilities at the NFA that provide important hands-on training:

Burn Cell demonstration
A stuffed animal was placed outside of the open flashover cell to show the effects of radiant heat on other close fuel packages.
Burn cells

The burn cells are concrete structures where scenarios are set up — such as a commercial office or a residential living room — and then burned following specific arson or non-arson methods. In this “real-life” simulation, under USFA and ATF supervision and following procedural guidelines, the attendees investigate the fire to determine the origin of the fire and whether it is a crime scene.

“Going through the burn cells really helped in learning to read fire patterns and watch how the fire burns with the fuel packages.”

students conducting experiments in the Burn Lab
Fire investigation students in the NFA’s Burn Lab apply a wire mesh to a candle flame to understand the physical and chemical properties of fire.
Burn Lab

The Burn Lab is home to instructor demonstrations and attendee hands-on practical exercises. For example, on a smaller scale than a burn cell demonstration, similar materials, such as different types of carpeting, are set on fire to show their different properties (burning, melting, etc.) for identification in a future field investigation. Instructor demonstrations include electrical aspects, such as showing how an appliance can be the cause of a fire (progressions, fault analysis, etc.).

“The hands-on portion really helped me put things in perspective.”

Fire investigation course offerings

New courses:

Established courses (offered in the past and will continue to be offered):

Future specialized courses will focus on report writing and fire dynamics.

Visit the NFA Catalog for more information on each course, including dates/availabilities, course description, requirements, prerequisites, selection criteria, pre-course materials and continuing education units.

Standards, guidelines and accreditation

NFA fire investigation classes are taught in accordance with the standards outlined in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator and under the guidelines of NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations.

NFA fire investigation courses meet the criteria for the International Association of Arson Investigators Certified Fire Investigator, a standardized evaluation of a fire investigator's training and expertise accredited by the National Board of Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board) and the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board.

Most NFA fire investigation classes qualify for continuing education units and American Council on Education recommendations for college-level equivalency.

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