Arson is defined as the willful or malicious act of burning property with criminal and fraudulent intent.
Arson investigators have different titles such as Fire Marshal or Special Agent. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, states, and private companies (insurance) employ fire investigators.
An arson investigator is skilled in science and art of investigation and fire science. The fire investigator responsibility is to determine the cause of the fire and, if appropriate, whether criminal or fraudulent activity is involved.
Arson investigations usually focus on four primary areas:
- Proof of incendiarism: The evidence at the fire scene that is cause of the fire as determined by the fire investigator
- Proof of opportunity: Security of the building and property of when the fire was discovered and who had access to the building or property.
- Proof of motive: Determining why the fire was set and who benefits from the property destroyed (interviews)
- Follow-Up: Includes an examination of insurance records, property records, security systems, background checks of key stakeholders, communications (emails and phone records), etc.
A career as a fire investigator usually starts with becoming a firefighter, then attending a fire investigation course (Many times attending a police academy or other law enforcement training) specialized credentialing and certification courses of arson investigation.
About the Author
Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 29 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.