MSP teaches firefighters investigative techniques

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EATON RAPIDS, Mich. - Firefighters from across the state gathered at a burned-out home Thursday to learn investigative techniques from Michigan State Police fire investigation experts.

It's part of a two-week long Basic Fire Investigative School (BFIS) hosted by MSP.

"We try to make it as real as possible," Det./Sgt. Trevor Slater told FOX 17.  "Learning about fire dynamics, fire investigation, how fire patterns can be read in a home or determining the origin or cause of a fire."

Slater joined several other investigators from MSP, guiding nearly three dozen firefighters as they sorted through ash, looking for clues.

"That can be a number of things such as ruling out electrical, utilities, accidental causes in the home," Slater explained. "That can be a range of careless candle use to careless smoking to bad appliances – anything that can cause enough heat to cause a fire."

If the students are able to eliminate accidental causes, then they can move in the direction of arson.

"Today is basically a culmination of the classroom training they’ve had up to this point," said MSP Det. Sgt. Mic Benjamin. "(It) gives them a scenario-based opportunity to practice and actually see firsthand what it’s like to dig in a burned out building."

"These exercises really hone in on those skills of doing it nice and slowly and methodical," said Holland Public Safety Fire Marshall Lt. John Vanderkooy. "That way, you can later paint a good picture to a jury, if it's needed to go that far."

If investigators come up empty in their search, they can seek assistance from an arson dog.

Some of the topics covered in the school include fire chemistry, origin and cause determination, explosions, wild land and vehicle fires.

MSP hosts the BFIS twice a year for public and private fire investigators. Completing the school is the first step in the process of becoming a certified fire investigator.


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