Fire investigation, sometimes referred to as origin and cause investigation, is the analysis of fire-related incidents. After firefighters extinguish a fire, an investigation is launched to determine the origin and cause of the fire or explosion. Investigations of such incidents require a systematic approach and knowledge of basic fire science.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), through a document known as NFPA 1033, Standard for Professional Requirements for Fire Investigator, publishes minimum requirements for the knowledge skills and ability of a fire investigator. Principal among these is a 16-point list of areas in which a fire investigator is required to have education beyond high school level. These 16 topics are:
- Fire science
- Fire chemistry
- Fire dynamics
- Explosion dynamics
- Computer fire modeling
- Fire investigation
- Fire analysis
- Fire investigation methodology
- Fire investigation technology
- Hazardous materials
- Failure analysis and analytical tools
- Fire Protection Systems
- Evidence documentation, collection & preservation
- Electricity and electrical systems
Fire scene investigators may become certified through the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) or the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI). Both certification programs rely heavily on the content of NFPA 1033 and NFPA 921. Both also require an application process detailing the investigator's education, training, and experience, and successfully challenging a written examination. Certificates are valid for a period of 5 years, at which time an investigator must demonstrate continued participation in the field and a minimum amount of continuing education in order to be recertified.
The National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI), a professional association of fire and explosion investigators, offer several National Board Certified fire investigation certifications including:
- Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI),
- Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI), and
All members of the Abington Township Fire Marshal’s Office are required to maintain certification as CFEI and CVFI through continuous education.