The importance of wildland fire investigation training: Origin and cause determination presented by Dynamic Incident Management and facilitated by highly experience and internationally registered wildland fire investigator
The primary purpose of this course is to provide a consistent knowledge and skills base for the wildland fire investigator by determining the origin, how the ignition source met the materials first ignited and identifying the responsible party. Accurate origin and cause determination is an essential first step in a successful fire investigation and successful fire investigations are necessary in preventing unwanted wildland fires. The course is a five-day training programme and includes classroom lectures, activities and field exercises. Full certification is only received after five investigation reports are completed and signed off by the facilitating agency.
Investigating a wildfire can seem an intimidating task as wildfires are driven by variable environmental condition such as fuel load, wind, weather and topography. Fire suppression activities, such as first responders entering the scene, backburns activities and changing fire lines, can influence the natural progression of the fire and affect fire patterns the investigator will have to interpret.
While being practiced and refined in some counties, wildfire investigation is a relatively new science in South Africa.
Many people, including seasoned high-ranking fire fighters, cannot accept that trained and experienced investigators are able to find the origin and cause of destructive wildfires due to this mindset, very few investigations are requested, resulting in the failure to determine the true cause of the fire and with it the collection of evidence that could lead to the apprehension of the offender(s).
The SAPS is not trained or experienced to undertake such investigations and it is the responsibility of the fire departments to determine if a malicious act was indeed the cause of the fire in question, due to the fire departments not always requesting the ‘Origin and cause’ investigation, the registered cases end up as dead ends.
The possible causes of wildland fires are varied and unpredictable, from lightning to arson to obscure events, however, if you understand the unique aspects of wildland fire fuels, behaviour and causes and apply systematic investigative techniques, you are better prepared to determine wildfire origin, cause and responsibility.
To know what prevention strategies and programmes we should offer the community, we must first know what causes fires in our community. To know that, every fire must be thoroughly and properly documented, investigated and reported. Spending effort on initiatives to prevent what is presumed to have been the cause is in many causes a waste of valuable time and money.
The ‘Wildfire origin and cause determination’ course provides candidates with the necessary training, information and skills to be able to conduct such investigations whereby the scientific and forensic conclusion that is reached can be used for prevention programmes, civil claim litigation and/or in the procedure of prosecuting offenders.
Basic knowledge of wildland fire behaviour, fuels, topography and weather is required to attempt the training of a wildland fire investigator.
Contact: Michelle Kleinhans
Dynamic Incident Management (Pty) Ltd
Cell: +27 (0)78 272 9089