How Do Firefighters Determine The Cause Of A Blaze?

Firefighters don’t just work to extinguish fires. They also do their part to determine the starting location and cause of the blaze. Both of these are very important when determining whether or not the fire was accidental or intentional. Not only will the police want to know how the fire started–especially if the worst happened and there were fatalities or the fire spread to other homes–but insurance investigators will have questions as well. Without answers, that insurance payment won’t happen.

So how do firefighters determine the cause of a blaze?

There are a number of techniques that can help firefighters or forensic analysts find the needed information, from satellite images to chemical tests. Simple observation works, too. First, the origin point of the fire must be found. This point can be big or small. Sometimes, it can be less than a square inch in size!

Analysts use science to figure out where fuel from the fire might have originated. If outdoors, could dry pine needles have done the trick? Rare, but possible. Some materials burn more easily than others, and these are the first suspects. Because paper will burn faster than wood, smaller objects and materials are often to blame.

Firefighters often arrive on the scene before a fire can completely demolish a structure or area, in which case they can easily figure out where the hottest flames were burning. This is likely the location at which the fire started because the fire was burning there longest. How much smoke was present when firefighters arrived? What was the color of the fire? To the untrained eye it might look like determining the origin point or source of a fire is difficult, but it’s usually easier than it looks.

Once the origin point is determined, there is often physical evidence left over. If the fire originated at the stove, it won’t take long to figure out what went wrong. Cooking accident? Electrical malfunction? “Char patterns” are used to track the progress of a fire from origin point to end point. That provides investigators with a general direction, which is another trick to figure out where the fire started and what caused it.

Because of the way a fire burns–up–the starting location can be more accurately determined when not at the floor level. A fire with multiple points of origin would immediately be distinguished as arson according to a criminal defense attorney Miami.