RURAL Arson Control
from fire services (Wayne County has several volunteer fire departments) and three from the Sheriff’s Department (force size is about 20 Deputies). Fire service investigators are responsible for taking samples and photographs; sheriff’s deputies are responsible for interviewing and report writing. State Policealso participate in some parts of the county (where they have substations), replacing Sheriff’s Deputies.
The arson task force concept remains one of the best mechanisms to overcome inter-agency communication barriers. Similar but less formal organizational approaches have produced improved inter-agency cooperation and coordina- tion. The Southern Ohio Fire Investigators Association and the Santa Barbara (California) County Arson Investigator’s Association are two examples of professional interest groups that meet regularly around a training and intelli- gence sharing format.
The “lessons learned” by these and similar associations could be gathered and distilled to promote their successful development in other rural areas.
The Oklahoma Association of Arson Investigators has recently established an “Arson Task Force” that furnishes teams of experienced investigators to com- munities in the Northeast part of the state. Teams are drawn from a pool of volunteers and are provided at no cost to the requesting jurisdiction.
Klamath County, Oregon’s “Arson Strike Force” provides teams of experi- enced, working cause and origin personnel to determine cause and gather evidence at suspected arson incidents. These teams act as a screening mecha- nism for the Oregon State Police Arson Unit which is responsible for investiga- tion of incendiary fires.
The Central Virginia Regional Arson Investigation Squad has 65 trained law enforcement officers available on call to respond to any arson incident in a two county, 10 jurisdiction area.
The New Jersey Attorney-General’s Office has assisted the formation of 16 county-wide arson investigative units. Rural counties lacking either the de- mand or resources are exploring the possibility of forming multi-jurisdictional units.
State firefighter’s and fire chiefs’ associations could provide state-wide leader- ship to obtain additional resources if motivated. In Delaware it was reported that such an effort resulted in the establishment of regional offices with more manpower assigned to perform investigations.
Arson investigator trainingprograms need to stress skills development in areas other than fire cause determination.