Why do we investigate fires?
Understanding why a fire started is important as it can help prevent further incidents. It is particularly important when people have been hurt or even have died due to a fire. Whenever there is an inquest, we will provide an in depth report into our investigation.
Often fires are accidental and the investigation will highlight issues the public needs to be aware of. For example ensuring cigarettes are fully put out or switching off electrical appliances when not in use at home. Some of these cases can be found in our Black Museum.
Occasionally fires are started deliberately and we may hand over information to Sussex Police to investigate whether a crime has been committed.
What types of investigations are there?
All fires are investigated to some degree. The majority of these are routine and investigated by the attending officers at the fires and referred to as level 1 investigations. The results of these are recorded in the electronic incident recording system.
Where a fire is more serious it will attract a level 2 investigation. These are carried out by specially trained Fire Investigation Officers. We currently have a team of 10 staff who carry out this role alongside their normal "day job".
Who carries out investigations?
We have a team of fire investigators who are specially trained for this work, alongside their normal "day job" at the fire and rescue service.
What happens during an investigation?
A Fire Investigation Officer's job is to gather all relevant information relating to a fire, analyse it and determine the cause. This information can come from a range of sources including; interviews of witnesses, documents, electronic sources such as fire alarm systems & CCTV. Information is also gathered by sifting through the debris to look for clues as to where the fire started and what caused it.
Very often an investigation can involve a number of different agencies such as; Police, Forensic Investigators, Forensic Scientists & Coroners Officers so our investigating officers may have to work as part of an investigation team.
Once all the evidence has been gathered the Fire Investigation Officer will come to a conclusion and write a report about the investigation.
What happens to investigation reports?
The reports are not routinely published. They are provided to the parties involved in the fire - for example the occupants of the house, the owners of a business, or as stated earlier a Coroner or the Police. Key information from these reports may also be shared with those persons who may be in a position to help prevent similar fires occurring in the future.
Latest Update : 10 March 2015