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The Fire investigator must determine the potential of electrical involvement during all structural fire investigations. Most occupied residential or
commercial buildings have energized electrical systems which present many
potential heat sources. The investigator cannot simply ignore the "electrical
fire cause" possibilities available during the fire investigation.
Depending on the extent of the fire damage, identifying even the possibility
of electrical involvement in the fire may be extremely difficult.
Most fire investigators are not qualified electrical engineers. Although you may have a good basic understanding of the electrical system works,
rendering a conclusive opinion on an "electrical cause" may jeopardize
your case in court. However, in the elimination process used to identify
the fire's point of origin and probable cause, the investigator must constantly
consider the electrical potential or be able to conclusively eliminate it
in an energized structure.
In addition to the electrical fire cause potential, the fire investigator should always make sure that the building under investigation is de-energized
prior to any physical examination. Failure to do so may seriously jeopardize
the investigator's personal safety.
The following checklist is designed to assist the investigator in determining if electricity was a contributing factor in causing the fire, and, if not,
eliminating electricity as a fire cause. This checklist is not conclusive,
nor does it eliminate the need for proper expert assistance; however, it
offers the fire investigator with a series of important checkpoints to use
when examining the electrical system.