The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee has published a technical guidance document, Strengthening Fire and Explosion Investigation in the United States: A Strategic Vision for Moving Forward, that describes recommendations for improving the practice of fire investigation.
The subcommittee performed an in-depth examination of the past and current state of fire and explosion investigation and its relationship to the judicial system. Using the 2009 National Academy of Science (NAS) Report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward as a model, they then developed recommendations for how to improve the practice of fire investigation. Chapter 1 of this technical guidance document provides an introduction, chapters 2 through 5 describe the field of fire and explosion investigation as it is currently practiced, and chapters 6 though 9 detail eighteen recommendations for improving the practice of fire investigation. The document also identifies a sixteen item research agenda to encourage further scientific study and publication of research results.
“While great progress has been made in the field of fire and explosion investigation, much work is left to be done. We expect this technical guidance document to be a useful way to help identify the work that is needed for the discipline in the coming years,” said Craig Beyler, Chair of OSAC’s Scene Examination Scientific Area Committee (SAC) and former Chair of the Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee.
OSAC Technical Guidance Documents are not standards, rather they support the development or implementation of a standard and provide a way to share information that was gathered during the standards development process. OSAC’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee began drafting this technical guidance document after placing two published standards, NFPA 921:2017 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation and NFPA 1033:2014 Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigators on the OSAC Registry. These standards fulfill two of the basic elements of the quality triangle in forensic science, with NFPA 921 providing the standardization of procedures and practices and NFPA 1033 providing the basis for qualifications and certification of investigators. A third standard which is still under development, NFPA 1321 Standard for the Organization and Operation of Fire and Explosion Investigation Units, will provide the basis for accreditation of investigation units.
According to Philip Crombie, Chair of OSAC's Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee, “Over time, the recommendations we provided are achievable with direct action and sustained attention. We can envision a day in which NFPA 1033, 921, and NFPA 1321 are used in an integrated manner by certified fire and explosion investigators who possess sufficient education in the discipline, work in accredited fire and explosion investigation units, and routinely produce high-quality investigations and reports. The pathway has been established, now it is our job as the fire investigation community to work toward achieving that end goal in the coming years.”
For more information about OSAC’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee, visit the OSAC website.