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The Fire Service Act* requires the New Zealand Fire Service to take an active and co-ordinating role in the promotion of fire safety in New Zealand including:
- seeking to ensure that knowledge affecting fire safety gained by the Commission is applied throughout the community:
- stimulating and maintaining interest in fire safety by means of education and publicity through all communications media:
- publishing and disseminating fire safety literature:
- research into methods and practices of fire safety, and making arrangements with any person, government department, or body having appropriate facilities for the conduct of any such research:
- seeking continuously for new ways to reduce the incidence of fire and the risk to life from fire.
The New Zealand Fire Service National Fire Research and Investigation Unit (FR&IU) plays a crucial role in helping to meet these obligations. The unit provides a broad range of investigative and research services and actively communicates learning from fires the fire service has attended to the wider community.
Other information on this site includes our Head's Up articles that provide information about lessons learned from fires we have attended, NZ product recalls related to fire, warnings published by the NZFS and further information about the FR&IU.
We trust the resources on this site will be useful to you. If you have any feedback or wish to contact the unit you can do so by e-mailing us at email@example.com
*Fire Service Act 1975 Sections 20 & 21
If you have had a fire that the Fire Service did not attend or wish to report a product that you believe is a fire risk please contact the following:
- Energy Safety (for all electrical or gas products)
- Ministry of Consumer Affairs for all other products (non-electrical of gas).
- Your local territorial authority (Council) for building related issues.
The Fire Research and Investigation Unit (FR&IU) has several key roles.
Identifying and reducing common fire causes of fire: The unit regularly reviews data from fire reports collected nationally by frontline firefighters. The FR&IU looks for unusual fires and common causes of fire such as equipment failure. When a trend or item of concern is detected the FR&IU works with government regulators, retailers, importers, and other industry representatives to address the issue. This can result in products being improved or recalled, or public warnings being issued through media and other sources. We may also work with industry groups to advise their members of fire risks. These may include faulty construction or installation practices, inappropriate use building materials or poor design.
Extracting learning from fire investigation reports: In addition to explaining how fires start, our fire reporting also looks for other learning we can glean from fires. We call this Post Incident Analysis (PIA) investigation. PIA's are completed by our Fire Engineers and look at how buildings withstood the effects of fire, how fire protection and detection systems performed and how people reacted in fires. The FR&IU publishes learning about fires on our web site in documents called "Heads Up".
Supporting best practice fire investigation:the FR&IU seeks to promote excellence in fire investigation and peer reviews every fire investigation report completed by NZFS Specialist Fire Investigators (approximately 260 per year) for factual integrity and consistency. Every week the FR&IU also reviews a sample of fire incident reports completed by fire fighting crews (approximately 27,000 fire incidents per year). The unit provides both training material and trainers for NZFS fire investigation courses and other government agencies. Other functions include providing support to maintain our fire reporting IT systems and developing improvements to our fire trend identification software useful for detecting common fire causes including arson (spatial and temporal analysis). The FR&IU also provides technical information about fire causes to answer queries from our staff around the country.
Liaison: The mission of the fire service is to reduce the impact of fire on our communities and there's a large number of other groups who are also keen to achieve this goal. The FR&IU regularly meet with many different government departments (such as Consumer Affairs, Energy Safety and Police), non-government organisations (such as the Insurance Council, Fire Protection Association of NZ) and industry groups. We share learning about fire causes, matters relating to arson, and coordinate our actions to reduce further fires. The FRIU promotes both voluntary and compulsory recalls published by our partner agencies.
The team also maintains close communication and shares information with fire investigation units in Australia.
Fire Testing: An important role of the FR&IU is being able to carry out tests to replicate suspected causes of fire and determine the level of fire risk of various products or materials. The FR&IU has a test facility where tests can be safety carried out using quality instrumentation and processes to measure and document test results.
Support of Significant Investigations: The FR&IU is equipped to respond to significant fires anywhere in the country to support local NZFS Specialist Fire Investigators where there has been large or complex fires. These types of fires often result in many different investigators present at a fire scene representing different government agencies and often, several insurance companies. The FR&IU staff assist by managing the coordination of the investigation process and providing technical advice as required.
The NZ Fire Service has carried out fire investigations for many years and has an extensive database that provides insight into what is causing fires in our communities. From this information the fire service develops its strategies to prevent further fires such as education programmes, advocating for changes to regulations and law or identifying people who are deliberately lighting fires.
A review of the NZFS fire investigation process and practice was conducted in 2008/09 that included the examination of many other international fire services and their fire investigation processes and practices. Information was freely shared with notable support from many of the Australian and English fire services.
The review identified the need for a national unit that could monitor the results of our fire investigations across New Zealand. The unit would need the ability to actively communicate to the appropriate businesses/agencies regarding the issues that were causing fires. The recommendation of this review was for the formation of a Fire Research and Investigation Unit. This was endorsed by the senior management of the fire service and the FR&IU was established in 2010.
The Fire Research and Investigation Unit is a small "virtual" team based in Auckland, Tauranga and Wellington using fire service video conferencing and other technology to connect and continue to promote best practice fire investigation.
The team consists of:
- National Manager Fire Investigation and Arson Reduction. Dip Bus Studies, Dip Exec Management, MIFE. Peter has over 25 years of service with the NZFS and served as an operational firefighter, an executive officer in a number of fire districts and functional areas before being appointed in his current role. Peter has completed fire investigation training in NZ, Australia and the UK. He has maintained his operational capacity continues to respond to major incidents to provide incident command with the rank of Area Commander.
Todd O´Donoghue Senior Specialist Fire Investigator. Todd has over 26 years of service with the NZFS and has served in a broad range of roles including an operational firefighter, Chief Fire Officer of a volunteer brigade, Volunteer Support Officer, Fire Safety Officer and in training. Todd has completed fire investigation training in NZ and Australia.
Colin Clemens - Senior Specialist Fire Investigator. MIFE, Grad Diploma Fire Investigation. Colin has over 35 years of service with the NZFS and has served as an operational firefighter and fire safety officer. Colin is a certified fire investigation instructor and managed fire investigation training in the NZFS for many years. Colin has completed fire investigation training in NZ, Australia and the USA and is a certified fire and explosion investigator.
The FR&IU was the driving force in developing an interactive DVD "Introduction to Fire Investigation" for all NZFS officers.
Fire Investigation 1 course: The FR&IU provides technical support and trainers for the national basic fire investigation training course.
Advanced Fire Investigation course: The FR&IU has developed and delivered specialist courses using experts within their respective disciplines. Topics have included comprehensive instruction in forensic awareness, fatal fires, analyzing fire trends and spatial/time mapping, incendiary fires and explosions, fires of electrical origin and giving expert testimony in court.
The FR&IU introduced an Advanced Diploma in Fire Investigation as a tertiary qualification for Specialist Fire Investigators. This diploma is delivered through the Australian Canberra Institute of Technology.
The FR&IU assists external stakeholders with fire investigation awareness training including the New Zealand Police (CIB and SOCO courses) and Military Police Advanced Investigator courses.
"The Fire Service mission includes the aim "To reduce the incidence and consequence of fire".
To prevent the damage and pain fire causes to people, their property, businesses and the environment we have to know what is causing fires to start. The way that we do this is by investigating each fire we attend and putting it together as a big picture to show the problem at local and national levels. This helps the fire service to develop plans to prevent further fires. These include reactive measures such as stopping the sale of unsafe items and proactive plans such as our educational programs and TV advertising that teach safe behaviour regarding fire. Using the information we gather from fire investigation we also seek to influence the various laws and standards that promote fire safety in New Zealand such as building standards.
The Officer in Charge (OIC) of every fire the Fire Service attends is required to determine its origin and cause and report on it.
Specialist Fire Investigators have additional training in fire investigation and are strategically located around the country to provide assistance to the OICs. They also attend certain incidents where more in-depth investigations are needed.
Fire Engineers who are trained in advanced investigations can attend major building fires to help collect information about how buildings withstood the effects of fire, how fire protection and detection systems performed and how people reacted in fires.
FR&IU Senior Fire Investigation Specialists are available to attend major incidents and coordinate complex and major fire investigations