AFCI – Comment from a Private Fire Investigator - with lots of letters after his name

Mike, the AFCI concept is good and R & D into this needs to continue. There are many electrical fires and each one is caused by either:

1. Resistance heating
2. Arcing (sparks or splattering of hot liquid metal into combustible materials)

The points about the data collection upon which the statements "what causes most electrical fires", is absolutely correct in every detail.

I have experience with both sides of that process having retired from a medium sized full time paid fire department after 20 years and worked as a private fire investigator for another 11 years. Most of the time, the people filling out the reports have little or no knowledge of fire investigation.

Our fire department consisted of about 675 people with 8 full time arson investigators. The investigators (fire marshals), did not use these reports, most had never seen one and did not know how to fill one out. The completion of these reports was left to the fire suppression personnel who did not have adequate training, support or the time to do a good job. Most of the time, the cause of the fire written on the report was based on homeowner/witness statements and speculation.

There are problems with the reports themselves, as was pointed out. If you did know the cause of the fire, you are limited to the choices in the expansive manual (National Fire Incident Reporting System Handbook) that accompanies the report. A wrong entry, with the wrong code number just will not work.

Combine the above with the long standing truth, "if the cause is not obvious, it is probably electrical" and you should become suspect of the accuracy of the data.

Jeff Crain CFI, CFEI, CMGF, BSEE
jeffcrain@mindspring.com

Mike Comments: Let me try to guess what the letters after the name means: CFI – Certified Fire Investigator, CFEI – maybe Certified Fire Electrical Investigator, CMGF and BSEE no clue.

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