Like many of Donan’s fire investigators (FIs), Jim Sielehr joined the company after a career in law enforcement, including investigating arson. He’s been a valuable part of the Donan fire team since 2016. Learn about his path to fire investigation for Donan, how the industry is changes, and the value of an experienced fire investigation team for your claim.
What led you to a career in fire investigation?
In July 1999, I transferred from the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WI DOJ) Division of Narcotics Enforcement to the WI DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation, Arson Bureau. The Arson Bureau also served as the State Fire Marshal’s Office for Wisconsin. My duties included investigating large residential, industrial, and commercial fires of statewide importance, major crimes, homicides, internet crimes against children, and gaming enforcement. I found that many fire investigations also involved other collateral criminal activity, which I found to be very challenging and rewarding when we finally secured an arrest or indictment. Upon retiring from law enforcement in 2016, I came to work at Donan as a fire investigator and trainer. Now I enjoy mentoring and training our new fire investigators and teaching them how to manage their investigations, to seek, document and report the truth, and to identify any potential subrogation possibilities for our clients.
How has fire investigation changed since the start of your career? What developments do you think will shape the future of the field?
The scientific and technological advancements in fire investigation have been dramatic. We now have more ignitable-liquid-detection K-9s, robots, aerial drones, computer 3D modeling, digital cameras, an advanced ATF Fire Research Lab where a structure fire can be recreated in a laboratory setting, as well as the health research and medical testing that is now an annual requirement. I believe that artificial intelligence (AI), scientific advancements, and data management will shape the future of the field.
What do you feel Donan offers clients and homeowners that other companies might not when it comes to fire investigation and service?
Donan’s Fire Division offers a very diverse and extensively experienced group of fire investigators nationwide. Many are retired firefighters or retired law enforcement officers. We also offer 3D scan imagery at every fire scene, several written reporting options for our clients, and the best customer service in the industry.
What is your proudest accomplishment during your tenure at Donan?
My proudest accomplishment during my tenure at Donan has been working closely with my direct supervisor, Jim McCarthy, Regional Fire Manager, Donan Western Fire Region, as the first two employees to be hired for the Western Fire Region back in May 2016. Together we have worked to help significantly grow the business in the region and to mentor and train the other fire investigators. I look forward to assisting with continuing the growth of the region, and mentoring and training more new FI’s in the future.