Fire Cause and Determination
Being a Fire Investigator can be a very time consuming to gather all key evidence to determine a fire cause. It's very important not to get tunnel vision because you will look over a lot of evidence. Secondly, every fire is accidental until proven otherwise. You don't want to accuse anyone, which will automatically make him or her defensive. You want to start from the outside before you go inside.
So let's start with securing the scene by leaving personnel at the scene until the fire investigator can arrive. It is a good idea to get a release form signed by the owner. You may have to get an administrative warrant if fire department personnel left scene. Dispatch center is good source of information, to find out who reported the fire. How did they sound? Where did they call from? What did they see? I would pull the dispatch tape, then listen to it.
Then I would review the fire report for the time of day, weather condition, what shift, and first arriving officer. I would talk with the first arriving officer to find out what he saw. Was anyone leaving the scene or looking suspicious? Where was the fire? How fast was the fire burning? How did the fire react with water? Did they notice any thing unusual? What did the occupants look like? Were they dressed appropriately. Were there any signs of escape or fire fighting? Then I would like to talk with the caller to find out what he or she saw. The occupant or owner may have some valuable information. Find out if there was recent construction or repair work. Were there any unusual occurrences before the fire? Occupants also can help with reconstruction of furniture. The neighbors are a good source...