Firefighters study forensics of vehicle fires at course held in Chowchilla

pmandrell@modbee.comFebruary 1, 2017 

Firefighters from the Central California Women’s Facility, Madera County Fire Station 5, participate in the forensic vehicle fire investigation course held in Chowchilla last week.


Participants from as far away as Canada, Southern California, San Jose and San Francisco attended a forensic vehicle fire investigation course hosted by the Chowchilla Fire Department. The weeklong course was held at the Chowchilla Fire Department and was presented by Fire Investigation Industries and San Luis Obispo Fire Investigation Strike Team.

The course was for fire, insurance and law enforcement investigators. They participated in live vehicle burns to analyze fire times, patterns and temperatures using the scientific method and systematic approach of analysis.

The course included live vehicle burns and challenged students to determine the origin and cause of the fires of the vehicles. After two days of instruction, the students were assigned to teams where they put their skills to work including fire pattern analysis, evidence collection, scene documentation, witness interviews and, in some cases, interrogation.

Demonstrations included flammable and combustible liquids and their reactions on hot engine manifolds, air bag deployments, and analysis of wiring harnesses that potentially cause fires vs. being attacked by fire.

Highlights of the course included:

• Demonstration of incendiary, electrical, fluid, mechanical and friction-caused fires

• How to use cellphone towers and social media to further investigations

• Vehicle insurance fraud investigations

• Vehicle mechanical inspections after a vehicle fire

• Speed control deactivation switch

• Utilizing event data records

• Fluids

• Vehicle system failures

• Hazards created by safety devices

• NFPA 921 and 1033 compliance

The class was taught by Don Roe of Fire Investigation Industries. This is the second course Roe has taught in Chowchilla. When Chowchilla Fire Chief Harry Turner heard Roe was looking for a place to hold this workshop, he offered the local facility.

Chowchilla Assistant Fire Chief Matt Myers attended the class. Myers said the class was an extensive course and was well worth the time. “It was very helpful,” he said. “An awesome class.”

Firefighters from the Central California Women’s Facility, Madera County Station 5, participated in the class by helping with the live burns.

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