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Fire Scene Preservation
The actions and observations of the initial responding fire-fighters are critical in the success of the subsequent investigation into the origin and cause of the fire.
To assist with requests for fire investigations into the origin and cause of grass, vegetation and bushfires that CFA Fire Brigades attend over the 2013/14 Fire Danger Period, the following key points have been developed. This is to assist the initial responding fire-fighters to undertake the correct observations and actions in protecting, preserving and recording the fire scene for any future investigation.
EN ROUTE TO FIRE
Observations should include:
- Smoke colour.
- Number of smoke columns.
- Weather conditions.
- Suspicious vehicles - Observe and record details via a radio message or written log of vehicles
or motorbikes leaving the area. Include make, model, colour, registration number, number of occupants, and any distinguishing features or damage to the vehicle.
- Suspicious person/s - Observe and record details of any person/s who are observed in the area (gender, height, build, hair colour, clothing and any distinguishing features).
- Note if any barriers have been placed to prevent the fire brigade’s arrival to the fire.
- Note if gates are open that are normally closed.
Observations should include:
- Smoke colour.
- Flame colour.
- Location of greatest fire activity.
- Number and location of seat/s of fire.
- Look for and protect any recent tyre marks and/or foot prints.
- Note any suspicious person/s within the area.
- Note any suspicious vehicles or motorbikes leaving the area upon your arrival or are in attendance on the arrival of the fire brigade.
- Whatever is black or burnt at the time of the initial fire crew’s arrival will include the area and point of origin for the fire!
Actions should include:
- By noting the position of the fire front, the flanks and backing edge of a fire on arrival, first attack fire crews will be able to establish the area of origin.
- Also note and/or record the area of origin by noting a particular tree, clump of trees, log, road sign, road marker, street / road sign or other features.
- The point of origin is most likely to be the most upwind part of the fire.
- Cordon off and establish the area of origin for the fire. This can be achieved by placing witches hats, markers or scene tape around the area or on the road adjacent to the area.
- Protect and preserve the area of origin from all vehicles including fire appliances and people.
- Do not drive fire appliances across the suspected area of origin.
- Use a minimal amount of water on the area of origin until it is thoroughly examined for a means of ignition.
- Do not use straight water jets on the area of origin for fire suppression.
- Do not discard water bottles or other items within the fire scene as this contaminates the scene. These items may be collected as part of the physical evidence for forensic testing.
PROTECT THE AREA OF ORIGIN
- Whatever is black or burnt at the time of arrival will include the area and point of origin of the fire.
- Protect this area by placing scene preservation tape around the designated area.
- Identify and leave in situ any pieces of equipment, machinery, vehicle or items located in the area of origin which may have caused the fire.
- Protect any suspicious items, devices or tyre or foot prints found at the scene.
- Secure the area to prevent fire appliances, fire-fighters and onlookers from entering.
- If possible, position personnel at the site to undertake this role until Victoria Police and/or Fire Investigators arrive on scene.
- If appropriate, use a vehicle to block access.
- Notify the Rostered Duty Officer (RDO) with a request for Fire Investigators to attend the scene if the origin and cause of the fire cannot be determined or if suspicious circumstances exist.
- When Fire Investigators arrive on scene they will report to the Incident Controller to obtain a briefing on the fire.
- Remember the success of the fire investigation is dependent on the actions and observations of the initial responding fire crews.
- In the event of the fire being deemed suspicious, the Incident Controller is to ensure the scene is preserved and request Victoria Police to attend the scene.
- The request for Victoria Police can be conveyed to VicFire as part of a word back or message stating “Police required to attend for suspicious circumstances”.
- Once Victoria Police arrives on scene, the Incident Controller should provide the Victoria Police members the details of why the fire is deemed to be suspicious.
- The Incident Controller should also request through the Rostered Duty Officer (RDO) the attendance of Fire Investigators at the scene.
ELECTRICAL OR GAS RELATED FIRES
- In the event of the fire being caused by electrical or gas appliances, equipment or assets, the Incident Controller is to ensure that Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) are notified and request to attend the scene.
- The request for Energy Safe Victoria can be conveyed to VicFire as part of a word back or message stating “Energy Safe Victoria to be notified due to the fire being possibly caused by an electrical or gas appliance, equipment or asset”.
RECORDING THE SCENE
- The Incident Controller is responsible to ensure that the origin and cause of the fire is correctly reported on the Fire Report.
- Information contained in the Fire Report relating to the origin and cause of fires is used extensively as part of the fire trend identification process across the State.
- If Fire Investigation was requested to attend the scene, ensure that on the Fire Report the “Fire Investigation Attended” section has been recorded as YES.
- Any information relating to the crime of arson can be made by calling Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.
Further information relating to scene preservation can be located within the Fire and Emergency Management Pocket Checklists under “Fire Investigation” and via the CFA Intranet / Brigades Online website at Fire & Emergencies > Fire Investigation > Report Arson
State Fire Investigation Coordinator Nicole Harvey