Meet the NAFI team: Ron Hopkins

Meet the NAFI team: Ron Hopkins, President of NAFI

Everyone at the National Association of Fire Investigators works hard to make sure our members reach their goals by supporting them with a variety of NFPA based trainings, certifications, and resources. When our members have the relevant education and resources that meet their needs, we’ve succeeded! We are proud of our team and are happy to share more about them with you.

Ron Hopkins is a full time fire investigation and explosion investigation consultant with TRACE Fire Protection and Safety Consultants. He was a faculty member of the Fire and Safety Engineering Technology program at Eastern Kentucky University for over thirty years teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses. He has also been a career or volunteer fire fighter for 50 years and is a third generation fire fighter. Ron is also the President of NAFI.

Ron has been married for 11 years to his lovely wife Pamela, between them they have four adult children, two sons and two daughters.

How did you get started working in fire investigation?
I got started in fire service in February 1966, my whole family had been a part of the fire service as volunteer and career members. While I was a career Fire Fighter with the Murray, Kentucky Fire Department I did some small fire investigations as a part of the requirement to complete fire run reports. From there, after completing my Master’s degree I joined the faculty Eastern Kentucky University teaching then in the Fire Prevention and Control (later named the Fire and Safety Engineering Technology Program). My teaching assignments were such that they allowed me to expand my involvement in the fire and explosion investigation field.

Why is NAFI an important organization for fire investigation?
NAFI has been a leader in the Fire Investigation profession for a very long time. Representatives of NAFI have been very active in both the national and international effort to improve the body of knowledge and technology of fire and explosion investigation and analysis. NAFI has had representation on the NFPA Technical Committee for Fire Investigation, which is responsible for NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation since the technical committee was formed. NAFI was the first professional organization to officially endorse NFPA 921 and NFPA 1033 Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator by organizational resolution. There have been many important projects and research accomplished over the past 40 years that has had a tremendous impact on the continued improvement of the fire and explosion investigation profession.

Another key action that NAFI took was to be the first of the professional organization to organize and offer a professional credential for fire and explosion investigators. The NAFI Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) program is a methodology for Fire and Explosion investigators to demonstrate that they have a body of knowledge and experience to meet the certification requirements. Certification does not mean that you’re the best, but it does mean that you’ve demonstrated the required degree of proficiency. Over the years, NAFI has expanded the opportunities for other important certification programs including the Certified Fire Investigator Instructor (CFII) and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI) which have also gained national and international participation and acceptance.

Lastly, NAFI recognized the need to enhance the need to reach out to those in the Fire and Explosion Investigation community and established the International Association of Fire Investigators.

What is your favorite part of being on the board with NAFI?
The organization continues to grow, being more involved in the fire and explosion investigation community and most importantly continues to improve. My belief as a member of the NAFI board, continued improvement is absolutely critical; personal development, professional development, it’s a part of everything we do. Improvement is why I remain active on the board and in the teaching of my professions, not only during NAFI sponsored programs, but teaching investigators in many of the US States and all over the world, including Canada, Korea, England, Germany, Malaysia, China, and Saudi Arabia

By participating in NAFI and other professional organizations, the profession gets better, people that don’t share, don’t help to improve the profession.

What advice do you have for Fire Investigators that are just starting out?
This is a very difficult question to answer. Entering into the field of fire and explosion investigation is different from other professions. There are limited options for entering the private sector with no or very limited experience. Some of the larger investigation companies and insurance companies are an option. The other option is through the fire service or law enforcement.

Either way, someone wishing to enter should:
1 – Study the sciences, you need to have a science background in addition to good investigative skills.
2 – Get practical, hands on experience, to balance your academics.
3 – Become active in your state fire service training entities.
4 – Find a good mentor or a position that offers good on the job training opportunities. Keeping in mind that only so much can be done at the academic level.

What is a quote that you live by?
Start early, stay late.

What is your favorite thing to do in your down time?
I’m an accomplished woodworker, my last big project was our kitchen cabinets, my wife made stained glass panels as inserts.

When you were a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Did not know. However, when I graduated from High School and completed my tour in the USAF, I wanted to be a High School shop teacher. That lasted 8 weeks and three days in the public school system, but I still had the desire to teach. Thanks to Eastern Kentucky University, NAFI and other Fire and Safety related organizations I was able to fulfill that plan.

Final thoughts:
Retirement is great, it provides me time to do the things that are important. Shop time, family time, and sharing my thoughts with others through sharing information.