Kirk’s Fire Investigation

8th Edition

Kirk’s Fire Investigation by David J. Icove and Gerald A. Haynes has long been regarded as the primary textbook in the field of fire investigation. *

*J.F. Decker and B.L. Ottley, Arson Law and Prosecution, Carolina Academic Press, ISBN 1-59460-590-4, 2009, p. 22.

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More has changed in the last year in the field of fire investigation than in all the years since the 1969 publication of the first edition of Fire Investigation by Dr. Paul L. Kirk and the 2004 publication of the first edition of Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction. Dr. Paul L. Kirk was a professor of biochemistry and criminalistics at the University of California at Berkeley, but it was his specialty of microchemistry that focused his attention on physical evidence and its analysis.

In 1953, Dr. Kirk wrote the landmark text, Crime Investigation, and maintained a private criminalistics consulting practice where he became involved in a wide variety of fire and explosion cases. He published Fire Investigation in 1969 as the first textbook on fire investigation written by a scientist rather than a fire investigator. Dr. Kirk remained in charge of the criminalistics program at Berkeley until his death in 1970 and launched the careers of many criminalists who now practice around the world. His concern with using science to solve the puzzles of fires and explosions presaged the current emphasis on using the scientific method to investigate fires by more than 30 years.

It is in honor of Dr. Kirk’s pioneering work in bringing science to fire investigation that his name remains included in the title, Kirk’s Fire Investigation, and the spirit, of this text. No longer is the investigation of fires just limited to inspecting the ruins, asking questions of the witnesses, and applying basic common sense and observations to determine the fire’s origin and cause. Fire investigators must now keep in step with the rapid changes in the forensic sciences, the innovations in fire scene documentation, and challenges in the court stressing precise defensible expert testimonies.

Forensic fire investigations go well beyond establishing what furnishings were present and where they were originally placed. Fire scene analysis and reconstruction involves identification and documentation of all relevant features of the fire scene—materials, dimensions, location, and physical evidence—that help identify fuels and establish human activities and contacts. This information, placed in context with principles of fire engineering and human behavior, is used to evaluate various scenarios of the origin, cause, and development of the fire and the interaction of people with it.

About This Book

This textbook is intended for use by a broad range of both public and private sector individuals in the investigative, forensic, engineering, and judicial sectors. Intended users include the following:

  • Public safety officials charged with the responsibility of investigating fires;
  • Prosecutors of arson and fire-related crimes who seek to add to their capabilities of evaluating evidence and presenting technical details to a nontechnical judge and jury;
  • Judicial officials seeking to better comprehend the technical details of cases over which they preside;
  • Private-sector investigators, adjusters, and attorneys representing the insurance industry who have the responsibility of processing claims or otherwise have a vested interest in determining responsibility for the start or cause of a fire;
  • Citizens and civic community service organizations committed to conducting public awareness programs designed to reduce the threat of fire and its devastating effect on the economy; and
  • Scientists, engineers, academicians, and students engaged in the education process pertaining to forensic fire scene reconstruction.

A thorough understanding of fire dynamics is valuable in applying forensic engineer- ing techniques. This book describes and illustrates the latest interpretations of systematic approaches for reconstructing fire scenes. These approaches apply the principles of fire protection engineering along with those of forensic science and behavioral science.

Using historical fire cases, both in the textbook, the authors provide new lessons and insight into the ignition, growth, development, and outcome of those fires. All documentation in the case examples follows or exceeds the methodology set forth by the NFPA in both the 2017 edition of NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations and its companion standard, the 2014 edition of NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator. This text includes the real-world case examples to illustrate the concepts that shed new light on the forensic science, fire engineering, and human factor issues. Each example is illustrated using the guidelines from NFPA 921 and Kirk’s Fire Investigation. In cases where fire engineering analysis or fire modeling is applicable, these techniques are explored.

New To This Edition

The eighth edition is one of the most adventurous editions over the last decade. Fully updated and streamlined from the previous edition, the eighth edition of Kirk’s offers the latest information on investigative technologies and innovative documentation techniques.
The following highlights are changes to this edition that set it apart from previous ones:

  • Meets the FESHE guidelines for Fire Investigation and Analysis, with correlations to the 2017 Edition of NFPA 921 and the 2014 Edition of NFPA 1033.
  • Emphasizes and cross-references the critical Job Performance Requirements (JPRs) of NFPA 1033 for fire investigators.
  • Provides background for NFPA 1033’s “Basic Sixteen” knowledge requirements.
  • Includes the latest information on applying the scientific method to fire investigations, particularly with the use of Bilancia Ignition MatrixTM.
  • Nearly all photos are now in color, making interpretation by the reader easier.
  • Updated, in-depth case examples demonstrate the use of forensic fire investigation and analysis approaches.
  • Comprehensive glossary of terms used throughout the textbook provides the latest definitions of common forensic fire investigation terminologies.
  • The textbook is included in required and supplemental fire investigation professional training and certification programs by the National Fire Academy, the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).
  • Provides the essential information required in preparing for the International Asso- ciation of Arson Investigator’s (IAAI) Fire Investigation Technician (IAAI-FIT) and Evidence Collection Technician (IAAI-ECT) Examinations.
  • Provides websites for both instructors and students, including problem sets from NIST, NFPA, US Department of Justice, and the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Assessment Board.

Chapter Outline

Kirk’s Fire Investigation is divided into the following chapters, which flow logically and build on one another:

Chapter I

Chapter 1, “Principles of Fire Investigation,” describes the foundation and back- ground of the rapidly developing field of determining origin and cause of fires. It presents a systematic approach to reconstructing fire scenes in which investigators rely on the combined principles of fire protection engineering along with forensic and behavioral science. Using this approach, the investigator can more accurately document a structural fire’s origin, intensity, growth, direction of travel, and duration as well as the behavior of the occupants.

Chapter II

Chapter 2, “The Basic Science and Dynamics of Fire,” provides the investigator with a firm understanding of the phenomenon of fire, heat release rates of common materials, heat transfer, growth and development, fire plumes, and enclosure fires.

Chapter III

Chapter 3, “Chemical Fires and Explosions,” provides the fire investigator with a thorough coverage of the interrelationships of chemical fires and explosions, hazard classification systems. Significant contributions to this chapter were provided by Dr. Elizabeth Buc, an internationally recognized expert in the field.

Chapter IV

Chapter 4, “Sources of Ignition,” explores existing and new methodologies of investigating and identifying competent sources of ignition. This approach uses the Bilancia Ignition Matrix method to ensure that exhaustive hypotheses are systematically generated per the scientific method.

Chapter V

Chapter 5, “Fire Scene Examination,” describes the science and engineering underpinnings of how fire patterns are used by investigators in assessing fire damage and determining a fire’s origin. Fire patterns are often the only remaining visible evidence after a fire is extinguished. The ability to document and interpret fire pattern damage accurately is a skill of paramount importance to investigators when they are reconstructing fire scenes.

Chapter VI

Chapter 6, “Fire Scene Documentation,” details a systematic approach needed to support forensic analysis and reports. The purpose of forensic fire scene documentation includes recording visual observations, emphasizing fire development characteristics, and authenticating and protecting physical evidence. The underlying theme is that thorough documentation produces sound investigations and courtroom presentations. The chapter includes commentaries on new technologies useful in improving the accuracy and comprehensiveness of documentation.

Chapter VII

Chapter 7, “Fires by Property Type,” describes the principles of fuels, ignition, and fire behavior with which investigators should be reasonably familiar before undertaking the probe of a fire. This chapter covers structural, wildland, motor vehicle, and ship fires. It also discusses the necessity of having a clear understanding of the purposes and goals of the investigation and a rational, orderly plan for carrying it out to meet those purposes, as well as the value and limitations of post-fire indicators and the basic physical processes that create them.

Chapter VIII

Chapter 8, “Forensic Laboratory Services,” describes the role of laboratory services in fire and explosion investigation and the types of examinations that can be requested. These include not only fire debris analysis but the application of a wide range of physical, chemical, optical, and instrumental tools on a variety of substances.

Chapter IX

Chapter 9, “Fire Modeling,” discusses the use of various mathematical, physical, and computer-assisted techniques for modeling fires, explosions, and the movement of people. Numerous models are explored, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Several case examples are also presented.

Chapter X

Chapter 10, “Fire Testing,” describes how despite governmental regulations, fires in which fabrics are the first materials to be ignited are still a very common occurrence. The chapter discusses the nature of common fabrics and upholstery materials and their contributions to both ignition hazard and fuel load in current studies.

Chapter XI

Chapter 11, “Arson Crime Scene Analysis,” reviews the techniques used in the analysis of arsonists’ motives and intents. It presents nationally accepted motive-based classification guidelines along with case examples of the crimes of vandalism, excitement, revenge, crime concealment, and arson-for-profit. The geography of serial arson is also examined, along with techniques for profiling the targets selected by arsonists.

Chapter XII

Chapter 12, “Fire Deaths and Injuries,” provides an in-depth examination of the impact and tenability of fires on humans. The chapter examines what kills people in fires, namely their exposure to by-products of combustion, toxic gases, and heat. It also examines the predictable fire burn pattern damage inflicted on human bodies and summarizes postmortem tests and forensic examinations desirable in comprehensive death investigations.

The Appendices contain a short refresher lesson on scientific notations and calculations.

“This is a vital text for all fire investigators. You must be familar with all of the topics covered. The authors have given us a readable text to further our careers.”

Michael Schlatman

Founder and President, Fire Consulting International

Kirk's Fire Investigation

8th Edition

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About the Authors

This textbook is coauthored by two of the most experienced forensic fire protection engi- neers in the United States. Their combined talents total more than 100 years of experience in the fields of fire service, behavioral science, fire protection engineering, fire behavior, investigation, criminalistics, and crime scene reconstruction.

David J. Icove, Ph.D., P.E.
An internationally recognized forensic fire engineering expert with more than 45 years of experience, Dr. Icove is coauthor of Kirk’s Fire Investigation, Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction, both leading treatises in the field, and Combating Arson-for-Profit, the leading textbook on the crime of economic arson. From 1992 until 2018, he has served and maintained an appointment as a principal member of the NFPA 921 Technical Committee on Fire Investigations. He is also chair of NPFA 901 – Committee on Fire Reporting.

As a retired career federal law enforcement agent, Dr. Icove served as a criminal investigator on the federal, state, and local levels. He is a Registered Professional Engineer, a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) from the International Association of Arson Investigators, a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) from the National Association of Fire Investigators, a Fellow in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and a Board-Certified Diplomat and Fellow in the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE).

He retired in 2005 as an Inspector in the Criminal Investigations Division of the US Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Police, Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was assigned for his last 2 years to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). In addition to conducting major case investigations, Dr. Icove oversaw the development of advanced fire investigation training and technology programs in cooperation with various agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) US Fire Administration.

Before transferring to the US TVA Police in 1993, he served 9 years as a program manager in the elite Behavioral Science and Criminal Profiling Units at the FBI, Quantico, Virginia. At the FBI, he implemented and became the first supervisor of the Arson and Bombing Investigative Support (ABIS) Program, staffed by FBI and ATF criminal profilers.

Prior to his work at the FBI, Dr. Icove served as a criminal investigator at arson bureaus of the Knoxville Police Department, the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office.
His expertise in forensic fire scene reconstruction is based on a blend of on-scene experience, conducting of fire tests and experiments, and participation in prison inter- views of convicted arsonists and bombers. He has testified as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials, as well as before US congressional committees seeking guidance on key arson investigation and legislative initiatives.

Dr. Icove holds BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Engineering Science and Mechanics from the University of Tennessee. He also holds a BS degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland–College Park. He is currently the UL Professor of Practice in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; serves on the faculty of the University of Maryland’s Professional Master of Engineering in Fire Protection program; and serves as an Investigator in the Knox County Fire Investigation Unit and as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Gerald A. Haynes, M.S.FPE, P.E.

Gerald A. Haynes is a registered Professional Engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the field of Fire Protection. He holds both Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science degrees in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland— College Park. He is currently the President of Haynes and Associates, LLC and serves as an adjunct lecturer for the Office of Advanced Engineering Education at the University of Maryland.
Mr. Haynes’ experience includes work at the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology Building and Fire Research Laboratory. His experience is multi-dimensional, including municipal fire service, fire and explosion investigations, complex case analysis and engineering support, and military service. He has provided testimony as an expert witness in state and federal courts in cases related to fire cause and fire testing protocols. He has conducted numerous presentations in the U.S. and internationally in the areas of fire dynamics, fire modeling and forensic fire engineering analysis. He currently is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the National Fire Protec- tion Association (NFPA), the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), the National Association of Fire Investigators, (NAFI) and ASTM International. He is a former member of the technical committees of NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, and NFPA 1033 Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator.