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ARE YOU HIRING A FIRE INVESTIGATOR OR A COMPANY NAME?

TASA ID: 4521

During the course of my 17 plus years investigating fire losses in the private sector I have made some observations that I am compelled to share. During recent years, I have noticed a trend of engineers attending a 5-day class and then receiving a certification as a “Certified Fire Investigator”. Sounds good. We all like to throw around the letters we have earned after our names. The only problem is not all of the individuals that attain this type of certification have very much experience in the totality of investigating a fire scene.

If I were charged with the task of hiring a fire investigator for my company or firm, I would start out looking for individuals that have aspired to better themselves through education and have attained certifications. But there is more to the process than just earning a piece of paper in 40 hours. I would need to evaluate each person’s experience. It seems it would be a better business decision to hire a company or individual with credentials AND experience to handle my potential subrogation case.

I don’t think too many individuals are going to try to argue the point that a 40-hour class gives you the same skills and experience as a fire investigator that has worked in the field for 40 years. If it were true and that easy, we could all obtain a pilots license attending a class and then go out and apply for a job as an airline pilot soon after. While getting the plane off the ground maybe elementary, experience gives you the insight when something looks or “feels” wrong. This is also true during the course of investigating a fire loss.

This same scenario is also possible when hiring large-scale investigation companies that promise you a fire investigator anywhere with just one phone call. Then all too often, an individual is sent out to conduct a fire scene investigation for 20 to 30 cents on the dollar. The phrase “no skin in the game” seems to be appropriate.

This letter is not intended to discredit engineers or contract individuals conducting fire investigations. It merely points out the need to evaluate each individual and company in regard to their experience in the field of fire investigations.

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA.


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