RURAL Arson Control
fire officers and investigators to complete a fire scene investigation..
Michigan v. Clifford illustrates the increasing need to keep fire officialsabreast of legal developments that affect fire cause practices. The decision further pointsout the need for close working relations with local prosecutors. Local law enforcement authorities may also be able to offer sound advice in proper search procedures.
In rural areas obtaining a search warrant can mean delays of several hours before investigation of the scene can begin. It often involves a round trip drive of many miles for the investigator to return with a search warrant. Unless arrangements are made to post guards to secure the property it can lead to a loss of custody of the scene.
Efforts should be made through the U.S. Fire Administration and state fire service organizations to publicize this and other landmark decisions.
Owner/occupant consent forms, and, if appropriate, administrative search warrant forms should be carried in response vehicles.
Develop procedures for rapidly securing a search warrant. States that grant fire marshals administrative search warrant authority save their rural investigators valuable time and energy
Klamath County, Oregon’s Arson Strike Force has developed procedures for control of scene as follows:
When members of an on-scene fire service encounter a fire of a suspicious nature (the Strike Force does some arson recognition training), they alert the Strike Force through their dispatch center.
Dispatch alerts four members (cause determination investigators) of the Strike Force’s investigative unit.
Firefighters maintain control of the scene until an investigator arrives but do not proceed with investigation.
The organizers of a pilot arson strike force in Northeast Oklahoma have found that adding an attorney to the investigative team is useful. Prosecuting attorneys can advise investigators on technicalities associated with evidence collection and custody, suspect interviews, subpoenas, consent to search forms, etc.