RURAL Arson Control
Exemplary performance certificates. State agencies could contribute to im- proved cause determination performance by recognizing outstanding contribu- tions of fire officers to arson case development. Recognition could range from a departmental letter of commendation to a monetary award.
Direct feedback from investigators may, however, be all the motivation that many fire officers need. Investigators can recognize individual contributions with a phone call and thank department-wide efforts at monthly firefighter’s meetings. As simple as these two feedback mechanism are, they are proven incentives to increase arson detection awareness among fire officers.
Arson control awareness can be promoted through other avenues. It needs to be soundly based in state statutes. Therefore state laws should clearly assign the responsibility for fire cause determination and reporting. Fire officers might be provided with a pocket guide or outline of their responsibilities in cause determination and reporting.
States and/or locales that establish qualification requirements for fire officers should include fire cause determination proficiency as a critical area.
Fire Scene Photography by Fire Departments
Fire departments should have the capability to photograph or videotape the incident, fire growth, suspected area of origin, and any evidence found at the scene.
Rural fire department personnel are in a position to greatly assist investigators by gathering photographic evidence at a fire scene. Some departments carry their camera equipment on apparatus and use it as soon as personnel can be spared from fire fighting duties. Pump operators can often take pictures of the exterior and crowd between other responsibilities. Initiation of evidence gathering by firefighters and fire officers can, in part, compensate for non- availability of an investigator (due to staff shortage, distance problems, etc.). This would at a minimum require:
availability of appropriate (low cost, easy to use and maintain)equipment; training in proper fire scene photography techniques; integration of this practice into the investigative process; and assigning the responsibility to one or more persons to ensure this capabil- ity is available (often a department has a “camera buff’ willing to take on this responsibility).