FIRE INVESTIGATION UNIT
The First Fire Investigation Unit in Strathclyde was a Land Rover, that was basically used to transport the Audio Visual Unit officer on duty and his cameras. As far as I can remember the FIU officer had the rank of Station Officer. This was followed by a proper Fire Investigation Unit (as detailed below) and the Audio Visual Unit became a separate entity.
THE FIRE DETECTIVES
Strathclyde Fire Brigade is the first in Scotland to create a team of
officers solely dedicated to the investigation of fires. The ten officers comprising the
Brigade's Fire Investigation Unit (FIU) are charged with the purpose of attending all
fatal and other serious fires within the Brigade's area and obtaining as much information
as possible concerning the circumstances. A specially adapted vehicle with a wide range of
specialist equipment is at their disposal and close links have been forged with forensic
scientists at the Strathclyde Police Forensic Science Laboratory and at several
All the officers were individually selected for their personal qualities and qualifications and undertook an intensive joint training course together with a scientist from the police forensic laboratory who had a particular interest in fires. The training hasn't stopped, however. A number of the officers are due to attend national courses with other fire investigators. Indeed, one of the officers is already on the working party to write UK national standards on fire investigation for the forensic science lead body in vocational qualifications.
The Fire Investigation Unit works in concert with the Brigade's Audio Visual Unit, who already provide video and photographic records of many of the Brigade's more serious or unusual incidents.
The range of equipment that the FIU has at hand is remarkable and unique. It includes apparatus that uses satellite technology to measure large areas using Global Positioning Systems and various lenses, micrometers and vernier scales to measure smaller items. Factors that are crucial to the scientific study of individual fires, such as wind speed, levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide, degree of flammability, electrical continuity and the measure of levels or angles can readily be addressed by the Unit. There is also a comprehensive library at the Unit's base in Hamilton, together with three laptop computers with relevant software packages that are as mobile as the Unit itself.
The Brigade has had an established, fire investigation system in place for a number of years. But this utilised Command and HQ based officers who had other duties. The Joint Fire Board approved the formation of the new Unit and allocated funding after being shown that its role was not simply to determine the cause of a fire but to give the Brigade some sort of feedback as to whether established procedures were working. Are our operational and fire safety procedures having an effect? Are building control measures working? Trading standards issues could also emerge and there is a real need to have detailed factual information available in cases where legal implications may result. This is an area of concern since Hampshire Fire Brigade were sued for £18 million and there have been a number of recent murders involving fire in Strathclyde's area. The Unit consists of a DO and ADO on the flexible duty system and four Watches, each of a Station Officer and Sub Officer, who operate on the established Watch shift pattern. It is the Station and Sub Officers who crew the FIU vehicle.
There are three other brigades in the UK who have formed dedicated fire investigation teams but none have invested in the level of equipment held by the Strathclyde Team, which, in consultation with manufacturers, is aiming to develop and enhance the range of equipment available.
The Fire Investigation Unit expects to attend over 200 incidents annually, which will regrettably involve around 50 fatalities.
(Semper Paratus Issue 1, September 1998, page 6)
Fatal first for unit
By PATRICIA KANE
A team of special investigators had
their ‘baptism in fire’ in Inverclyde this week.
Strathclyde Fire Brigade’s newly-launched hi-tech fire investigation unit was called out to its first blaze – in Port Glasgow on Wednesday.
The team — based at the brigade’s headquarters in Hamilton — was created to ease pressure on senior officers who constantly found themselves juggling paperwork with fighting fires.
And their first investigation since the unit was launched on Monday, was into the cause of the fatal fire which killed pensioner Robert Craig (73) at his Bute Avenue home this week.
The unit’s Divisional Officer Iain Scade told the Telegraph: “Most people consider that fire investigation is just a matter of tracing the cause and origin of a blaze.
“But there is far more to it these days because we have to also look at other issues, like building control and trading standards.
“For example, did washing machine ‘x’ cause the fire and, if so, how many other washing machines of the same type have been responsible for similar incidents.
“The paperwork and amount of time required to do investigations properly was becoming too much for senior officers, who also had to attend to their normal duties as well.”
He added: “On Monday we launched our new investigations unit with a team of specially-trained junior officers.
“It now means they will work solely on fire investigations and will be able to gather and collate information more thoroughly.”
Assistant Divisional Officer David Adams said the new unit was "invaluable" to the service.
He commented: "A dedicated unit such a this will be able to work independently of the crews and allow them to get on with the job they are meant to do – fighting fires.”
<PHOTO> RED ALERT. Members of Strathclyde Fire Brigade’s new investigation unit attend the Port Glasgow blaze.
(Greenock Telegraph, Saturday,7 March, 1998. Page ?.)
The Fire Investigation Unit was launched on Monday 2nd March 1998.
The staffing of Fire Investigation Unit in
July 2007 was:-
1 Group Manager (B)
1 Group Manager (A)
1 Administration Assistant (Civilian)
1 Watch Manager (B) Training Officer
1 Watch Manager (B) Staff Officer
12 Watch Managers (B) 3 per watch
The watches were increased from 2 to 3
WM(B)s as if one member of the watch was off then the other couldn’t do anything
as they are not allowed to work on their own.
The FIU responds to all Level 2 incidents as a part of the Level 2 PDA.
The new Incident Research and Investigation Section, IRIS for short vehicle was designed by the officers in the Fire Investigation Unit. They are now called IRIS as under the Fire Scotland 2005 Act they have to Research and Investigate all Incidents not just fires and they are now empowered under that Act to impound items from the scene of the incident and for this purpose they have a secure locker built into the near side appliance.
In the office section there is a sink, fridge, microwave, 2 laptops and a touch plasma screen. The vehicle does not have Satellite Broadband (as in Control Units and TSU) but will be getting 3G Broadband in the future. The area is also heated and air conditioned and the 2 dark windows on the near side have venetian blinds built into them for privacy when interviewing witnesses or casualties. The vehicle is powered by a whisper generator located in the rear locker on the near side, which runs inside the locker and doesn’t need to be pulled out when running like the one in the Technical Support Unit.
It attends any Level 2 incident, or where there is a fatality, serious injury, serious smoke inhalation, large loss, on request from a Senior Officer, on request from the fire ground or at their decision as they monitor all incidents from their HQ at Hamilton.
They study all incidents from the previous day each morning and compile a report for the Chief Officer. They also monitor Water Rescues and RTCs as they don’t normally attend them and produce stats on them.
|? to 1998||F118HHS||Land Rover Defender 110 Call Sign HQ39|
|2/3/1998||F268WCS||Ford Transit/SFB Call Sign HQ18|
|2001||X486RNS||Ford Transit/SFB Call Sign HQ18|
|2008||SF07AKO||Mercedes 816D/Cebotec Call Sign P02S1|
Photos of Fire Investigation Units.
If you know of any mistakes in this or have any additional information please let me know.
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