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Fire Research and Investigation Unit 

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The New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS), in accordance with sections 20 and 21 of the Fire Service Act 1975, actively promotes fire safety in New Zealand.  This includes:

  • applying throughout our communities the fire safety knowledge gained by the New Zealand Fire Service Commission
  • stimulating and maintaining interest in fire safety through education and publicity
  • publishing and circulating fire safety information
  • researching fire safety methods and practices, including organising with any person, government department, or body who have appropriate facilities to conduct any such research; and
  • searching for new ways to reduce the frequency of fire and the risk to life from fire.

Our national Fire Research and Investigation Unit (FR&IU) is crucial in helping us to meet these obligations by providing a wide range of investigative and research services. They take their learning from research and investigations into fires and publicise it to the wider community.

You can email fireinvestigation@fire.org.nz if you have any feedback or wish to contact the unit.

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reporting

If you have had a fire that we did not attend, or wish to report a product that you believe is a fire risk, please tell the following agencies:

  • Energy Safety, for all electrical or gas products, on Freephone 0508 377 463.
  • Ministry of Consumer Affairs, for all other non-electrical or gas products, on Freephone 0508 627 774.
  • Your local territorial authority (Council) for building related issues.

whatwedo

In the Fire Research and Investigation Unit (FR&IU) we have 6 key roles.

  1. Identifying and reducing common fire causes of fire
  2. Extracting other learning from fire investigation reports
  3. Supporting best practice in fire investigation
  4. Liaison
  5. Fire testing
  6. Support of significant investigations

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1. Identifying and reducing common fire causes of fire

We regularly review the data our frontline firefighters submit via their fire reports . We look at unusual fires and at common causes of fire such as equipment failure. When we spot a trend or detect an item of concern we work with government regulators, retailers, importers, and other industry representatives to address the issue.

This work may result in products being improved or recalled, or public warnings being issued using the media and other sources. We may work with industry groups to advise their members of fire risks. Examples of this has previously included faulty construction or installation practices, inappropriate use of building materials, or poor design.



2. Extracting learning from fire investigation reports

In addition to explaining how fires start, we analyse fire reports for other learning. 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. We publish all our learning about fires in our "Heads Up" reports.
See our list of “Heads Up” reports.

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3. Supporting best practice fire investigation

Every year our NZFS (New Zealand Fire Service) Specialist Fire Investigators complete over 400 fire investigation reports. We promote excellence for our fire investigations and peer reviews, focussing on factual integrity and consistency.

Fire fighting crews complete incident reports for approximately 27,000 fire incidents every year. Every week we review these fire incident reports to identify common fire trends and  to promote a high standard of reporting nationally. We provide training material and trainers both for NZFS fire investigation courses and for other government agencies.

We help maintain our fire-reporting IT systems and develop improvements to our fire-trend identification software. This software uses spatial and temporal analysis to detect common causes of fire, including arson.
We also provide technical information about the causes of fire in order to answer queries from our staff around the country.

 

4. Liaison with community and community agencies

The mission of the NZFS is to reduce the impact of fire on our communities and there are a large number of other organisations who are keen to achieve this goal. We regularly meet with:

  • government departments such as Consumer Affairs, Energy Safety, and the Police
  • non-government organisations, such as the Insurance Council, and the Fire Protection Association of NZ, and
  • industry groups.

We share our learning about the causes of fire and the matters relating to arson with these organisations, and coordinate our actions to reduce further fires. We promote voluntary and compulsory recalls that are published by these partner organisations.

We maintain close communication and share information with fire investigation units in Australia.

 

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5. Fire testing

One of our most important roles is to carry out testing to replicate suspected causes of fire. This helps to determine the level of fire risk of various products or materials. We have a test facility where tests can be safety carried out using quality instrumentation and processes to measure and document test results. We share these results and use them to support action to reduce further risk of fire.
Read product recalls

 

6. Support of significant investigations

We are equipped to respond to significant fires anywhere in the country, in order to support local NZFS Specialist Fire Investigators if there has been a large or complex fire. These types of fires often have many different investigators, representing different government agencies or insurance companies, present at a fire scene. Our staff manage the coordination of the investigation process and providing technical advice as required.

History

The New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) 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 NZFS develops strategies to prevent further fires. Examples of this include education programmes, advocating for changes to regulations and law, or identifying people who are deliberately lighting fires.

The NZFS fire investigation process and practice were reviewed in 2008/09. The review examined many other international fire services and their fire investigation processes and practices. Particularly notable was the support and information freely shared by the Australian and English fire services.

The review identified the need for a national unit that could monitor the results of NZFS fire investigations across New Zealand. The unit would need to talk to appropriate organisations/agencies about the issues that were causing fires. The review recommended that a Fire Research and Investigation Unit be created. This was endorsed by the senior management of the NZFS and the FR&IU was established in 2010.

OurTeam

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:



image1Peter Gallagherimage1



Peter Wilding - National Manager, Fire Investigation and Arson Reduction. Member Institution Fire Engineers (UK). Peter has served with the NZFS for more than 26 years, as an operational firefighter, and then an executive officer in a number of fire districts and functional areas before being appointed to his current role.

Peter has completed fire investigation training in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. He maintains his operational capacity which means he can respond to major incidents to provide incident command with the rank of Area Commander.

 

Peter Gallagher - Senior Specialist Fire Investigator. Peter has spent more than 25 years investigating fires, explosions, and various industrial accidents throughout New Zealand. He has worked within a number of government agencies.

Peter has holds an undergraduate qualification in explosives technology and a post graduate diploma in fire investigation. He completed his fire investigation training in New Zealand, Australia, and the US. He is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and a Certified Fire Investigation Instructor.

 

Colin Clemens - Senior Specialist Fire Investigator. Member Institution Fire Engineers (UK), Grad Diploma Fire Investigation. Colin has served with the NZFS for more than 36 years, as an operational firefighter and a fire safety officer.

Colin has completed his fire investigation training in New Zealand, Australia, and the US and is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator. Colin is a Certified Fire Investigation Instructor and has managed fire investigation training within the New Zealand Fire Service for many years.

Training

image1We are the driving force behind the development of an interactive DVD "Introduction to Fire Investigation" for all New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) officers.

Here are a list of the fire investigation courses we support.

 

Fire Investigation 1 course

We provide technical support and trainers for the national basic fire investigation training course.

 

Advanced Fire Investigation courses

We have developed and delivered several advanced fire investigation courses using experts within their respective disciplines. Topics included comprehensive instruction in forensic awareness, fatal fires, analysing fire trends including using spatial/time mapping, incendiary fires and explosions, fires of electrical origin,  and giving expert testimony in court. This course is now run by the National Training department of the NZFS and supported by our unit.

 

Advanced Diploma of Public Safety Fire Investigation

We introduced this Advanced Diploma of Public Safety  Fire Investigation as a tertiary qualification for Specialist Fire Investigators. This diploma is delivered through the Canberra Institute of Technology.

We also help other agencies with fire investigation awareness training including the New Zealand Police (CIB and SOCO courses) and Military Police Advanced Investigator courses.

Why we do it

image1Part of the New Zealand Fire Service’s mission is “to reduce the incidence and consequence of fire". In order to reduce the consequences (the damage and pain fire causes to people, their property, businesses and the environment) we need to know what is causing fires to start.

We do this by investigating each fire we attend and put together a ‘bigger picture’ to show any problems at local or national levels. This helps us to develop plans to reduce the incidence of these fires. These plans may include reactive measures, such as stopping the sale of unsafe items, and proactive measures such as educational programs and TV advertising that teach safe behaviour around 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.

Who does it

image1The Officer in Charge (OIC) of every fire the NZFS attends is required to determine its origin and cause, and then 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. They collect information about how a building has withstood the effects of fire, how fire protection and detection systems performed, and how people reacted in fires.

FR&IU Senior Fire InvestigationSpecialists are available to attend major incidents to coordinate complex and major fire investigations.