Archive for August, 2012

by: Jason A. Sutula

“All we know is still infinitely less than all that remains unknown.” – William Harvey

Beginning each and every fire investigation is a unique experience. No two fire scenes are ever the same. As such, no fire investigator should feel comfortable jumping to conclusions as to the origin and cause of the fire immediately upon their arrival on the scene. As mentioned in my post on the Scientific Method, data is the key to determining the origin and cause of a fire. The more data that is available to an investigator, the more likely it is that an accurate determination will be made. This is why it is extremely important for a fire investigator to understand what resources are available.

In many cases, experience and training in fire investigation can only take the investigation so far. Eventually, the entire determination or outcome of a case may hinge on the ability of the investigator to explore the unfamiliar territory of a physical process that they do not understand. To overcome this, an investigator must be prepared to research the phenomenon in question.

The links posted on this blog are designed to help along these lines. One of the most helpful in researching fire phenomena is sponsored by the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL), which is a division within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). BFRL supports a website called, “Fire on the Web,” which can be found at Fire on the Web contains information on a host of topics including fire test data, fire modeling software, and links to NIST’s publication directories. The information found here can provide that extra insight for a fire investigator to more fully understand the fire phenomena associated with a particular fire scene and the resulting investigation.