Fitting a Square Peg Into a Round Hole – Fire Classification Under NFPA 921
Brian P. Henry and Andrew L. Smith
This article will be presented at ISFI 2016
This article will explore an important, but largely ignored, topic in NFPA 921 – should fire investigator experts classify fires? Does a classification of a fire as incendiary serve a purpose? Why did the NFPA implement authoritative guidelines permitting fire investigators the ability to separate fires into one of four distinctly defined categories? These important questions will be explored in detail below.
To begin, we must first ask ourselves why we investigate fires. As a society, we investigate a fire to find the root cause to prevent the fire from happening again. Public welfare and safety are huge concerns. Fire investigation implicates potential criminal responsibility. Some say the purpose of fire and explosion investigations is much broader than just determining the cause of a fire or explosion incident. The goal of any particular fire investigation is to come to a correct conclusion about the features of a particular fire or explosion incident that resulted in death, injury, damage, or other unwanted outcome.