Fire Trainees Get Look at Hot Cars

Sep 15, 2011

Although there were no explosions, the Scott County Fire Department did set four cars on fire Wednesday afternoon to show 225 fire investigator trainees the different types of vehicle fires and how the cars burn. 
Among the cars burned were a 2006 Audi A6, valued at $85,000, a 2009 and 2011 Dodge Charger, a 2008 Jeep Compass and a 2004 PT Cruiser. All cars were donated by the Chrysler Group, LLC and Volkswagen of America.

It was the third time the department has hosted the fire investigator training given by the National Association of Fire Investigators; it is held every two years.

The training brought participants from all over the U.S., Canada, India, China, England, Barbados, Brazil, Germany and South Africa.

“It’s fairly prestigious to get this certification and because it runs every two years, if you miss it, you have to wait another two years to give it another shot,” said Pat Kennedy, chairman of the board of NAFI.

At the end of the training, there is a written comprehensive exam to become a certified fire investigator. After that, firefighters can then take certified vehicle investigation training, much like the training they had on Monday.

“The opportunity to watch these burn, most fire departments do not get that,” said Station Officer Mike Beasley, senior-most fire investigator for London, England. “We put them out as quick as we can.

“When we get there, we put them out and they are gone. To be able to experiment and burn is an opportunity any fire investigator wants and that’s where we learn our trade from ... from watching and viewing and getting advice from each other.”

Most departments burn scrap cars during training, Beasley said.
But some of the vehicles involved in this training were expensive models donated so manufacturers could learn more about how they burn, said Larry Brooks, head of product analysis for Chrysler Group LLC.

The training benefits both investigators and car owners, said Jim Kanavy, Scott County’s assistant fire chief, who was running the training program.

“Not only does it give our guys training, but for investigating fires, it lowers everybody’s insurance,” he said. “If there is intentionally set fires and there is a liability problem, we can find it and that makes products much safer.”