Fire loss investigations under the authority of the Act are conducted in a way that supports the investigation work of other interested agencies such as insurance agencies and the police. Information is normally readily available to other interested agencies with the goal of assisting them to complete their investigations.
The system known as the team concept is designed to enable different agencies involved in an investigation to come to an agreement regarding the origin and cause of a fire.
EMFS promotes and supports the principals of the team concept when conducting investigations. The team concept recognizes that there may be a need for an increasing number of agencies to become involved in a fire investigation as circumstances dictate.
Implementation of the principles of the team concept provides all agencies involved in the investigation of fire losses with a number of substantial benefits such as access to expertise from other agencies; being able to efficiently and effectively investigate any fire; and the ability to conduct investigations under difficult or challenging conditions. Success relies on every participating agency believing in, committing to and following through with the principles of the team concept.
The authority for fire investigation in a jurisdiction is free to follow any system of investigation management they feel meets their needs.
The declared interest each agency has in the investigation dictates when a team should be formed and which agencies should be members. This could involve:
Local Assistants – Local Assistants are responsible to investigate or cause to be investigated the cause, origin and circumstance of every fire occurring within their jurisdiction.
EMFS – EMFS Investigators support Local Assistants with their investigations if/when fires fall under the mandate in the Act and/or hold a special interest.
Police – Police can be on scene for any fire investigation but are not usually requested unless a death or suspicion of a criminal activity is identified. Once a criminal investigation has started police take the lead role. Police often request assistance from EMFS Investigators.
Coroner – If there is a fire fatality the Coroner needs to be notified.
Occupational Health & Safety – If a fire resulted in a workplace injury or fatality, an
OH & S representative must be notified.
Gas or Electrical Safety – Gas or electrical safety personnel are sometimes requested as team members but should only be called when absolutely necessary, as their resources are limited.
Insurance – Typically the owner will contact their insurance representative directly. They are welcome on-scene unless there is some reason they are not permitted, e.g. when a closure order has been issued. This protects EMFS from any charge or challenge concerning the validity of an investigation. An insurance representative who is excluded because of a closure order will have the situation explained to them and they will still form a part of the investigation team, just not on the fire scene.
Insurance, police or other agencies may expand the team at any time. Police identification technicians, independent insurance investigators and representatives of Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety are just a few examples of the outside expertise which might be called on.
Principles of the Team Concept
Principle 1 - Everyone does his/her own job
This principle recognizes that each agency involved in a fire investigation has a specific interest and specific expertise. Each member of the team contributes from his/her area of expertise and recognizes the contributions of other team members. These cooperative efforts come together to form a complete “picture” of the investigation that benefits the entire team. The principle is clear; no one individual can “do it all” and that a team approach is the best and most productive method for fire investigation.
Principle 2 - Everyone supports everyone else so everyone can do his/her job
This principle is basic to any activity involving a team. It means support is given by and to every team member or potential team member, in every aspect of the investigation. This principle supports the first principle of the team concept. It identifies that each member of the team not only brings specific expertise to the investigation but also that each team member has specific interests in the fire investigation and that these diverse interests must be served.
Principle 3 - Everyone shares
The principle of sharing is primarily related to information regarding a fire loss and the resources necessary to advance fire investigation training. At a fire scene, EMFS investigators provide information they have gained from their investigation with all other investigation agency personnel present at the scene. This information is usually shared verbally as each agency is on-site conducting their aspect of the investigation.
Principle 4 - Everyone agrees
The primary purpose of the team concept is to assist all agencies involved in a fire investigation to reach the same conclusion about the fire. Each agency is entitled to their opinion and to substantiate that opinion. Where agreement is not possible the agencies are free to “agree to disagree.” This is a valid conclusion under the principles of the team concept. Any person who does not agree with EMFS Investigator’s conclusion is free to do so and is welcome to present an opinion for consideration.