The Jamaica Fire Brigade in an effort to deliver a more effective and efficient service to the public, eighteen (18) Fire Investigators were trained in 1997. The course was conducted by a British Company with the expertise of a veteran British firefighter and researcher. This course covered simple as well as advanced fire investigating techniques. A section of the training was to attend real fires and perform investigative tasks during and after the fires. This includes making sketches and taking photographs. The study of Jamaica Legislation in relation to arson and the Fire Brigade as well as hands on experience on how to handle a courtroom situation was also a part of the training.
Fire Investigation Teams have been created with regional jurisdiction (Areas 1,2,3 and 4) to provide islandwide coverage. Each team has a supervisor. Fire Investigators fall under the jurisdiction of the Chief Fire Prevention Officer at the higher level, and under the jurisdiction of the respective Divisional Heads at the lower level.
Our Fire Investigators are able at fire scenes to discover, collect, sort, analyse and report on information gathered. They are able to:
a) the reasons for the ignition and the stages leading to the ignition;
b) the fire spread mechanism once ignition has occurred;
c) the interaction between the fire spread mechanism, the building design and the occupants.
a) the fire size, building and contents behaviour, occupant egress and firefighting efficiency;
b) the available methods of mitigation in reducing the identified fire spread mechanism;
c) the effect of the fire safety design function on the fire development.
a) reports to building designers, regulators, building managers on the effectiveness or otherwise of the fire protection system design in terms of fire safety of occupants, fire fighters and property;
b) feedback on the strategy and tactics employed in firefighting for the specific emergency and rescue scenarios under consideration.
It can be argued that arrangements whereby the whole fire and the associated element are investigated from pre-ignition to extinction will mean that any identified shortfalls in knowledge can be remedied by an examination of the data collected and stored. The aim of fire investigation can be defined as:
Obtaining sufficient data about real fires, which (when combined with firefighting knowledge and an understanding of the science of fire) can be used to produce a representation of that fire as a series of time based events. These events will describe the history of each fire from prior to ignition to extinction.
The mission statement of the Jamaica Fire Brigade is: ‘To minimise loss of lives injury to persons and damage to property from fires, natural disasters, accidents and other emergencies by the application of appropriate technology, fire prevention doctrines, rescue and fire fighting tactics and by acting in close collaboration with industries, businesses, institutions, households and community organizations in fulfilling the role of protecting life and property’.
This mission statement fits nicely with the prime focus of the Fire Investigation Strategy which seeks to obtain complete sets of data from each fire so that the information gathered can be utilized to “protect members of the public from fire and improve the safety of the Fire Brigade’s Operational personnel”.
It is the complete set of information collected from each fire that will provide the key to an efficient and competent resolution to the mission statement of the Jamaica Fire Brigade.