Reannon (reannon) wrote in little_details,

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firefighting/arson investigation

This group was recommended to me by phinnia, and it looks like a great resource!

I'm researching my fourth book, and I need advice on firefighting and arson investigation. I've done plenty of internet research. But if there are any firefighters or investigators who might be able to help me, please let me know.

I've observed more fires than I could possibly count. I've stood inside a house during a controlled burn and seen how it spreads. Smelled it, too. But I've never actually fought a fire, of course. There are a few things, usually at the very beginning of the fire (before we get there) that I don't understand.


1. When first arriving at a fully involved structure with windows already broken, what's the first move if there is a person inside? Ventilating the roof, breaking in the door, hoses?

2. I've observed that it's two in, one out as a standard procedure with the departments I've covered. Is that universal or are my guys extra conscientious?

3. I've been fortunate enough to cover very few fatal fires, and none where the person was recovered while I was present. Obviously the first move is to get the person out of the house. Do they still use the traditional "fireman's carry"?

4. What's the assessment once the person is removed? Oxygen, of course, and checking the vitals. If there is no heartbeat and no attempt at breathing, what else can be done on site? What would be done before declaring the victim dead at the scene? Is a doctor required to make that pronunciation, or can a paramedic do it?

5. What makes a fire "flash" when water is introduced, and what does that look like?


1. The assailant needs to set a fire with a living human in the room that explodes in flames quickly, but gives him a second or two to get out. What's a good method for homicidal arson? The room has a fireplace that will have a live fire in it at the time. A few methods would be nice - I have a few fires to get through. And I promise I only burn things up in fiction. :) Include any particular clues that would be noticed at the fire scene to give my guys a chance to figure out what happened - burn/smoke patterns, signs of accelerant, color of flames, pattern of spread, etc. The point of these fires is to commit murder, not destroy the structure, so a single point of origin would suffice.

2. Is there a difference in the way arson investigators in municipal departments proceed vs. state fire marshals? Usually my guys do basic work, then relegate the findings to the state guys, who make recommendations to the state's attorney for prosecution (or not - arsons seem very rarely prosecuted, usually for lack of evidence). One of my fires will happen in an unincorporated area outside the town, served by a volunteer department; the second in a wealthy suburb; the third in an inner-city slum.

3. How closely do arson investigators work with local police? What's the division of labor in the investigation? I assume they fend off the insurance investigators with a bullwhip?


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