In cases of fire loss investigation, many questions will come up. For example:

  • What started the fire?
  • Did the fire spread?
  • What materials played a role?
  • Did the fire protection systems work right?
  • Was the building constructed and maintained to code?

These are good questions that should be asked, but they don’t necessarily get to the heart of a fire loss investigation. Every question is important, but often times, the best ones go unasked and remain unanswered. In a field where asking the right questions can be the difference between winning a case or losing it, the stakes are high. Asking a fire protection engineer to review the case and offer additional questions and answers might help tip the scales in a client’s favor.

How A Fire Protection Engineer Can Help

Generally speaking, an experienced fire protection engineer possesses a degree of knowledge and expertise about fire science, building codes and standards, and engineered fire protection systems that far exceeds that of a fire investigator without this background. Take a fire in a commercial kitchen for example. It’s a common scenario. A first-in investigator, adjuster, or attorney might look at the fire and identify what seem to be obvious culprits: improper storage, improper food handling, a suppression system that did not put the fire out, etc. But, there may be other questions that are equally important to ask, such as: Was the fire suppression system properly designed, installed, and maintained?  Was the grease hood, filters, and exhaust duct properly cleaned?  Why was there so much fire damage?

Buildings are built with the expectation that a fire can happen. Fires are a fact of life, but the damage a fire causes is mostly under our control. So, it’s also important to explore if the level of fire damage was appropriate, or if there should  have been less damage. If there should have been less fire damage, what could have been done differently to reduce it?

The answers to these questions require a higher level of knowledge and understanding of fire science and engineering.  Since there is the risk that the court will exclude the testimony of an expert without the right expertise and experience, it makes sense to engage the services of an experienced fire protection engineer to answer questions related to ignition, fire growth and spread, and fire detection and suppression system performance.

Fire Protection Engineers deal with everything related to fire including:

  • Ignition sources and materials
  • Fire dynamics
  • Fire detection and suppression systems
  • Building and fire codes
  • Fire test methods
  • Fire performance of materials
  • Computer fire modeling
  • Failure analysis

If you would like to learn more about a fire loss scenario, talk to a fire protection engineer. They will be able to give you the full story.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.