NFPA Offers Guidance for Fire Investigations

March 13, 2002
The NFPA issues a White Paper on post-fire analysis in an effort to improve the investigation of fires and, hopefully, reduce the number of fires in the future.

The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Fire Protection Research Foundation has issued a White Paper on post-fire analysis, hoping to improve the process of fire investigation. The paper, available at no cost from the foundation, is the first in a series of recommendations that will be issued from several other advisory councils, each convened by the foundation to examine one area of fire-related activity.

The Research Advisory Council on Post-Fire Analysis, an independent 14-member panel from industry, research, insurance, government and the fire service, developed the white paper. It reviews the status of the techniques and knowledge base of post-fire investigations and presents recommendations for research and development needs in the area of post-fire analysis. The council hopes to prompt industry, insurance groups and researchers to move forward on initiatives to improve fire investigation and analysis.

Post-fire analysis comprises a wide range of activities, which identify where and how a given fire or group of fires started and the factors contributing to fire loss. Traditionally, most post-fire analysis efforts are focused on origin and cause with emphasis on civil and criminal litigation. The basis for identification of fire origin and cause has evolved mainly from practical knowledge rather than scientific research.

"The fire investigation community has just begun to benefit from scientific validation that supports traditional interpretation of fire patterns," says Daniel Churchward, president of Kodiak Enterprises Inc., a member of the council.

The council identified five broad areas where progress is needed in post-fire analysis. These are:

  • Origin and cause investigation methods
  • Deaths, injuries, property losses and building costs
  • Education, training and dissemination
  • Environmental impacts of fire and fire protection
  • Business impacts

The white paper addresses impact, research/development and benefit to groups from advances in these categories. Research undertaken as a result of the white paper's recommendations could subsequently be incorporated into proposed new fire codes and standards or into the appendix of NFPA 921.

The white paper is available in hard copy by contacting the Research Foundation at 617-984-7283, or in PDF format by logging on to NFPA's Web site at

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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