Fire Investigation

Fire investigation is the process of determining the origin, cause, and development of a fire or explosion. The standard of care in the US is NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations. Since the advent of NFPA 921 in the early 1990’s, fire investigation has transitioned from an “art” that was heavily dependent on anecdotal observations and rules of thumb, some of which are now known to be incorrect, to a systematic process grounded in the Scientific Method and fire science.

NFPA 921 advocates establishment of a final origin and cause hypothesis using a systematic and iterative process that involves collecting data, analyzing data, developing hypotheses, and testing hypotheses. Fundamental fire science, quantitative fire dynamics analyses, and fire modeling provide investigators with tools to test origin & cause hypotheses and assess whether the postulated origin and cause is consistent with available forensic data, or if an alternate origin or cause explains these data equally well. Due to the inherently interdisciplinary nature of fire investigation, this requires a working knowledge of fire dynamics, heat transfer, combustion, thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics. Failure to adequately test origin & cause hypotheses at the time the fire scene investigation is conducted can lead to incorrect origin & cause determination.

Reax Engineering specializes in applying the science of fire dynamics, heat transfer, combustion, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and fire modeling to test forensic fire investigation hypotheses and conduct origin & cause analyses.