Wildland Firefighters Practice Fire Investigation

June 19, 2009
Teton interagency firefighters will team up with law enforcement next week to practice an additional component of their job. Through a Wildland Fire Origin and Cause course taught by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, interagency fire personnel will learn ways to determine how and where a fire started, while also conducting a prescribed fire.

Weather permitting, instructors will burn approximately five acres, broken out into 20 100-by-100 foot blocks near the power line two-track along Mormon Row Road. This area lies within the 300-acre Warm Springs Ditch project—a previous prescribed fire and weed treatment area. Each block will be ignited using a different method, and students will then investigate each block to determine the cause of the fire and the characteristics of its spread.

Students in the course will learn to identify the behavior of a wildland fire and the environmental factors that affect its start and spread; they will also learn to interpret burn patterns. In addition, the course covers elements of a fire scene such as: evidence identification, preservation, and collection; fire investigation methodology; witness interviews; ignition factors and sources; arson recognition; and preparation and testimony for the courtroom.

“This course is important because we need more qualified fire investigators in Teton Interagency Fire,” said Mack McFarland, interagency fuels specialist. “As we investigate human-caused fires, we need to be able to accurately determine the cause, and preserve evidence, so that we can pursue cost recovery for fire suppression activities.”

The Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination course runs from June 22-26. Instructors will burn the study blocks on whichever day has the favorable weather and conditions to sustain a prescribe fire.