Fire Investigation Team Coordinator: Lt. Jay Atherton
The Palatine Fire Deparment has a team of 8 members tasked with determination of fire cause and origin. They work in conjunction with various local, state and federal investigation and law enforcement agencies to determine what started a fire, where it started, and to prosecute arsonists if it is determined that a fire was intentionally set. Members of the team are certified as investigators by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, and have extensive training in fire cause and origin determination. They have to maintain a high level of continuing education to remain certified and a part of the team.
Fire investigation is a combination of burn patterns analysis, fire debris analysis, scene recreation, interviewing, and evidence collection. These clues help investigators determine the origin and cause of a fire.
Burn Pattern Analysis
Burn pattern analysis is the process of tracking the fire damage back to the spot of origin. This is done by interpreting the smoke, heat, and fire damage and combining this with a working knowledge of fire behavior and building construction.
Fire Debris Analysis
Fire debris analysis is achieved through systematically layer through the fire remains. This is the slow and tedious process of removing layer upon layer of debris in search of clues.
Interviewing is a critical part of the investigation process. It allows investigators the ability to gather information from the homeowners, business owners, employees, any witnesses, and the firefighters on scene.
Scene recreation is done by combining fire debris analysis and
interviewing skills. Based on structure remnants and owner sketches, a pre-fire scene can be reconstructed. This allows investigators to
understand how the fire spread and what the contents in the room were.
Both Palatine Police and Fire Departments have active Fire Investigators. It is important that the departments work closely together, especially in instances where criminal acts are suspected. Evidence collected at the scene of a fire can be valuable information during court proceedings. Evidence can be tested in laboratories for DNA and to determine if accelerants were used during the fire.
Juvenile Fire Setters
Juvenile Fire Setters is a program that the Palatine Fire Department offers to the public. This program is for children who have started fires and for children who are beginning to experiment with fire starting. The program is designed to explain the consequences of setting fires and help prevent future incidences. Please contact our office at 847-202-6340 with requests for more information about this program.