A Donan fire investigator uses many techniques in order to determine the origin and cause of a fire. Chief among these are the investigator's observations of the scene and the conditions surrounding the scene. Fire behaves in a predictable and consistent manner when we take into consideration elements such as potential ignition sources, fuel loads, availability of oxygen, wind direction, firefighting support efforts, and extinguishment techniques. Fire requires oxygen to continue the burning process and produces a byproduct of partially burned residue in the form of soot and smoke.
Donan fire investigators use the scientific method to determine the series of events that caused the loss. Every investigator starts their study of the scene with a consistent, documentable, and repeatable approach.
Donan investigators typically begin their scene study with the exterior of the fire-damaged structure. All sides of the structure are examined and photographed. The investigator will look for the outward signs of the fire communicating from areas within the structure and venting to the outside. The usual places are door and window openings where the byproducts of the fire and combustion process will usually proceed outward and upward.
The interior investigation will begin at the area of least damage and progress through the scene to the area of most damage, which indicates where the fire was burning the longest and, usually, where the fire started. The investigator will take into account and document any factors, such as ventilation types of fuel available, that would influence these fire patterns.
Analysis of ventilation patterns on the exterior and interior of the structure can be valuable in determining the extension and movement of the fire, and many items and situations can influence these patterns and the spread of a fire. These patterns can be altered and deformed by natural and mechanical air movement in the area of least damage and progress through the scene to the area of most damage, which indicates where the fire was burning the longest and, usually, where the fire started. The investigator will take into account and document any factors, such as ventilation types of fuel available, that would influence these fire patterns.
Donan investigators are trained to identify and factor in these fire influences during the examination. Situations such as a door or window being open or shut during the development of a fire can influence fire patterns tremendously. Questions the investigator must find answers to, such as "Did the heat and gases generated by the developing fire shatter the window glass, or was the window left open?" or "Was the door open or closed?" must be answered.
These observations are only some of the many factors an investigator will consider in the determination of the origin and cause of a fire. Interviews of witnesses, levels of destruction, measuring, sampling, and laboratory analysis may also be used in a complete origin and cause study of a fire, in order to be sure.
DONAN, a family owned company founded in 1947, provides full-service Forensic Engineering and Fire Investigation Services. For over 60 years, Donan Engineering has been providing unbiased answers to their client's complicated questions. Their team of licensed and experienced forensic experts provides investigative services in the fields of engineering investigations, fire and explosion origin & cause, roofing investigations, and component testing. The diversity of their multidisciplinary staff allows them to provide not only a complete service, but a complete service whose conclusions can be successfully and completely supported.
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