Fire investigations is a process to collect, analyse, and report detailed fire incident data through on-site investigations of evidence on fire scene.
Reports may take the form full reports, preliminary or summary reports. It is carried after firefighters extinguished a fire to determine the origin and cause of the fire or explosion. Investigations of such incidents require a systematic approach and knowledge of basic fire science.
Areas documented during the course of the investigations include details of fire ignition, growth, and development; contributions of building construction, interior finish and furnishings; fire detection and suppression scenarios; performance of structures exposed to the fire; smoke movement and control; human reaction (response) and evacuation; firefighting and rescue; fire propagation as a function of human reaction time; and the extent of life loss, injury and property damage, etc.
In common with many forensic disciplines, one of the early tasks of fire investigation is often to determine whether or not a crime has been committed. The difficulty of determining whether arson has occurred arises because key evidence was often destroyed by fire or during firefighting. Many fires are caused by defective equipment, such as shorting of faulty electrical circuits /wires. Car fires can be caused by faulty fuel lines, and spontaneous combustion is possible in large laundry facilities where newly dried bedsheets are stored in bins.
A fire investigator looks at the fire remains and collect information to reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to the fire. One of the challenging aspects of fire investigation is the multiple-discipline basis of the investigator’s job. As fires can be caused by or involve many ignition sources and fuels, fire investigators need to know not only the science of fire behaviour, but also to have a working understanding of many different areas of study including construction, electricity, human behaviour, and mechanical devices.