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Learning Center Experience
E. Bridges, Adjunct Faculty Member for Kaplan University's Public Safety Program; Third (3rd)
Year Law Student – North Carolina Central (NCCU) School of Law – Durham, NC; Current
Technical Specialist / Fire Scientist / IAAI-CFI with Meagher & Geer, PLLP
– Minneapolis, MN; Former Special Agent / K-9 Handler / CFI, North Carolina
State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI) – NC
within the field of fire analysis
requires reliance on scientific principles, sound methodology, logic, passion,
training, and one’s available tools. As a Special Agent / K-9 Handler with the
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI), I frequently deployed
differing implements in my mission to seek the truth in fire and explosion
incidents. While my toolbox included flashlights, elaborate measurement
devices, sketching software, evidentiary collection, and personal protective
equipment, NCSBI K-9 “Phoenix” proved to be one of the most effective tools
deployed in my fire investigations throughout the State of North Carolina.
are trained to determine the origin and cause of fire events based on the facts
and evidence in a case as applied to the scientific method. While there are no
“cookie cutter” or “one size fits all” approaches to discovering where a fire
began or the underlying causation issues associated with the event, fire and
explosion investigators frequently interpret fire scene patterns and collect
items of evidence for later laboratory analysis. These critical laboratory
examinations often reveal the presence of ignitable liquids, which supplement a
competent origin and cause determination investigation. Rather than the fire
investigator identifying fire debris sampling locations solely on physical
patterns present, the resourceful
investigator often requests a certified accelerant detection canine team to
identify or eliminate the presumptive presence of an ignitable liquid within the scene.
detection canine teams were first introduced into fire scene origin and cause
investigations by the Connecticut State Police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the late 1980s. While these law enforcement agencies continue
to prepare the largest number of accelerant detection canine teams for work
around the United States, many other agencies have followed suit and now train these
specialized canines today.
detection canines are imprinted on a wide variety of ignitable liquids commonly
identified in incendiary fires. Accelerant detection canine teams significantly
enhance the ability of fire scene investigators to identify and collect precise
fire debris samples in the field without significant case difficulty or delay. While
it should be reiterated that the results of the canine teams work is only to be
confirmed by a competent trace evidence chemist, it greatly enhances the
ability of the fire investigator to perform his/her job in the field.
in any fire scene investigation is the investigator’s need to follow the
scientific methodology in rendering an opinion as to the fire’s origin and
cause. The use of the accelerant detection canine allows the fire investigator
to more precisely pinpoint items of evidentiary value to be analyzed using this
systematic methodology. Undoubtedly, these specialized canine teams will
continue to significantly enhance the field of fire investigation and further reduce
the impact of incendiarism on our communities for decades to
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