ISFI 2016 wrap-up

Last week was ISFI 2016 at the beautiful McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We had over 40 presentations on a variety of fire investigation science and technology topics! Thank you to all of our speakers and all of those who submitted high quality papers of their research and experience, we are so grateful for your desire to share and give back to our community. Over 125 delegates joined us from eight countries.

Gregory Corbett speaking at ISFI 2016

We also want to thank several individuals who contributed time and effort to ISFI 2016 – Gregory Corbett, Ron Hopkins, Vyto Babrauskas, Scott Davis, Wayne Chapdelaine, Kevin Lewis, and Jim Shanley. Without them, ISFI 2016 would have gone on, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.


Deposition Testimony: Don’t Fall Prey to Lawyer Tricks

Karrie J. Clinkinbeard, J.D., CFEI
Armstrong Teasdale LLP
Gerald A. King, J.D., CFEI
Armstrong Teasdale LLP

Presented at International Symposium on Fire Investigation, 2014

After an expert completes the origin and cause investigation, has carefully reviewed all available data and thoroughly researched the methodology and conclusions, the upcoming deposition should be easy, right? Not if you are unaware of tricks lawyers use to shape the testimony in the manner the adverse lawyer desires. Even the most qualified experts who have followed all elements of the scientific method in formulating their opinions are at risk if they are not sufficiently prepared to handle the opposing lawyer’s tricks. An adverse lawyer’s goal during a deposition is to have the expert say something they did not mean to or say it in a way that harms that party’s case. Lawyers craftily lay a myriad of traps when questioning an expert, especially with experts who are strong advocates for their clients. This article highlights some of the most effective lawyer tricks and provides advice on how to successfully navigate them. The presentation will contain video clips of actual depositions where these lawyer tricks are used, providing real world examples of what to do (and not do) and how to recognize when the adverse lawyer is setting you up.

Download the complete paper here

Minnesota town burns on September 1, 1894

The town of Hinckley, Minnesota, is destroyed by a forest fire on this day in 1894. A total of 440 people died in the area.

The upper Midwest was particularly vulnerable to devastating fires at the end of the 19th century as European settlers cleared the land for agriculture and timber and new railroad lines were built through heavily wooded areas. Hinckley was a new lumber and rail town built along the Grindstone River in Minnesota near the Wisconsin border. The town’s settlers felled trees for lumber using slash cutting techniques that left behind large amounts of wood debris—excellent fire fuel. Further, they set up lumber yards very close to the rail lines. This proved a dangerous combination when sparks from trains set the wood debris ablaze.

In the summer of 1894, drought conditions in the Upper Midwest made a deadly fire even more likely. On the afternoon of September 1, fires near two rail lines south of Hinckley broke out and spread north. As the raging fire reached the town’s train depot, 350 of the townspeople got on a train to escape. The train had to pass right through flames, but reached safety in West Superior, Wisconsin.

Other Hinckley residents sought refuge in the swamps near town, but many in this group were killed, some from drowning. About 100 other residents fled to a gravel pit fill with water; most managed to survive. A train that was entering Hinckley from the north reversed direction to avoid the blaze, but still caught fire. The only survivors were those who managed to jump from the train into a lake.

In all, 300,000 acres of town and forest burned in the fire, causing about $25 million in damages. In Hinckley, 228 people died. More than 200 others in the surrounding areas also perished, including 23 Ojibwa natives.