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Wildland Fires Investigation and Prevention

NCJ Number
M Durst; R Newlon; J J Novak; Rodriquez; J E Trevino; P F Witka
Date Published
9 pages
Major concerns in the investigation of incendiary wildland fires include the actual detection of the point or area of origin, followed by determination of how the fire was caused; type of suspect and suspect prosecution; and prevention of wildland fires.
Checking the direction or path on which the fire traveled is done by examining the remains of stems, tree trunks, and roots for the most intense burn and highest charring. Once done, the investigator works backwards toward the area and/or possibly the point of origin of the fire. As the fire usually destroys the device or cause of the fire, the investigator usually must list the fire cause as undetermined or under investigation. A classification of incendiary fire motives used by the Florida Forest Service illustrates the motives similar and dissimilar to those of the urban firesetter. Wildland fires often occur in remote or sparsely populated areas, thereby limiting the investigator in potential witnesses and ease of suspect identification. The investigator working a wildland fire uses a number of the same steps employed in the investigation of an incendiary structure. Possible witnesses include wildlife management personnel, rural mailpersons, power company employees, and garbage hauling companies. The wildland fire investigator might find it advantageous to 'network' with other agencies and department. The normal 'major case' investigative methods should be used when interviewing a suspect. Measures for controlling and preventing incendiarism are educating the public, regulating protected land for public use, and law enforcement. Three references are listed.


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