Ask an Expert: Subrogation & Fire Investigation

Ask An Expert is a question-and-answer column designed to address common questions related to forensic investigation and property damage. Each month we’ll feature one or two questions submitted by you – our readers and customers – and provide detailed, easy-to-understand answers. Email your questions to [email protected] or submit your questions here.

Question #1: With the initial call and contact to investigate, would you request the property be protected by covering for fear of a weather event hampering your investigation?

Jack Fetrow, IAAI-CFI, CFEI, CVFI:  Depending on the geographical location of the fire this might be a must to ensure the scene can be properly processed.  Especially in cold weather in the northern half of the U.S., the possibility of snow cover and frozen scenes can be a big concern.  If the scene is without covering and can be feasibly covered (with regard to logistics and cost) it certainly should be.  Obviously, the cost of the claim will dictate the degree of protection and investment made into the protection methods.

Question #2:  Are there possible state requirements that we should be sensitive to that may come into play beyond the national requirements?

Brian Henry, Esq., CFEI (Smith, Rolfes & Skavdahl Company): Absolutely.  Different states have different requirements for evidence preservation, notice, expert qualifications, and even licensing.  Every expert should ensure that they are familiar with these requirements and adhere to them with each investigation.

Question #3:  I often have the problem of identifying the manufacturer/product. Is it possible that the investigator gets this information timely so that the scene does not sit for weeks?

Jack Fetrow, IAAI-CFI, CFEI, CVFI:  The investigator should research, to their fullest capability, to identify the manufacturer.  Many times the best that can be gleaned from the remains of the product is narrowing the manufacturer down to one of maybe two or three companies.  At that time all the potential manufacturers should be put on notice.  They will soon tell you whose product it is.

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About the Expert

Mr. Jack Fetrow joined Donan in 2002 and currently serves as Principal Fire Investigator and Technical Fire Manager for the firm’s fire investigation services. He has 35 years of fire service experience, and has conducted more than 1500 fire investigations.  Mr. Fetrow has extensive experience in agricultural fires and off-road equipment fires. He is a Certified Fire Investigator, a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator, and a Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator.  He is also a Private Investigator in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and Ohio.  Mr. Fetrow has taught more than 40 fire courses and has been authored articles for industry publications.

View Jack’s full professional profile here.

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