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RURAL Arson Control


Ventura County, California and Memphis-Shelby County, Tennessee, among others, have established county-wide units. The Regional Arson Investigation Squad of Central Virginia is an example of a multi-county program as is South Nevada Regional Arson Task Force. The Michigan State Police have established a state-wide Strike Force program. In California, the Governor’s Special Arson Task Force has formed an Operational Group to provide on-site investigative assistance on the request of any local agency. Both these state and regional programs have proven successful in assisting local jurisdictions.

The brief description that follows is of two such regional units. They are representative of the way a number of regional programs are organized and operated.

The Klamath County, Oregon Arson Strike Force (ASF) operates under a formal charter with oversight from the County’s Arson Task Force (an advisory group composed of fire chiefs, police chiefs, county council members, etc.).

The ASF has one representative from each participating fire service and law- enforcement agency in the County. These are the persons who have assigned responsibility for arson detection/investigation within those agencies; they are field investigators rather than managers.

Apart from oversight by the Klamath County Arson Task Force, the Strike/ Force runs itself. They conduct monthly meetings that incorporate training and review or update of information from previous sessions.

The ASF currently has approximately 15 members about half of whom are experienced fire cause investigators. Insurance company participation is en- couraged but is limited to an advisory capacity and to provision of training and equipment. (An active insurance company role might be seen as a conflict of interest.)

The Strike Force uses both paid and non-paid, fire and police personnel. Participation is voluntary, but the individual participant must pass evaluation by membership of the Strike Force. Participation, as stated above, is limited to those within the agency who are already responsible for fire causeinvestigation.

The ASF is an extension of inter-agency mutual aid agreements that existed prior to its formation. This is noteworthy since it is simply a new use of an established concept. As such, it already had a regulatory basis for its existence. Thus, it is possible that this approach could be readily applied in other parts of the country within the scope of existing authority bases.

In Northeastern Oklahoma, a regional arson program was implemented in the late spring of 1984. Referred to as an “Arson Task Force”, the program makes use of strike force type teams to assist arson investigators in Northeastern Oklahoma. The program is strictly volunteer with teams composed of firefight- ers, police, media representatives, and an attorney. Currently, the task force has enough volunteers for four or five teams.

Assistance is provided at no cost to the receiving jurisdiction. The program requests but does not demand reimbursement for such things as film and evidence cans. Planners are currently assessing a funding scheme that would

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