FIRE – RESIDENTIAL

Case Description

ARCCA was asked to investigate a house fire.  Based on preliminary information, it was thought that the home had experienced a chimney fire which caused a total loss and a collapse to the basement level.

Steps Taken:

  • ARCCA’s expert researched the internet for police, fire, social media photos and videos of the fire.
  • The expert attended a joint inspection at the site of the fire.
  • The expert performed an external fire pattern analysis of the home, followed by an interior room-by-room fire pattern analysis.
  • The expert inspected the electrical panel for breaker trips.
  • The expert used the breaker trips to isolate areas of the home in order to arc map.
  • The expert inspected the propane service and storage tanks used to heat the home.
  • The expert inspected out buildings and other structures built on the property.
  • The expert assisted with evidence collection of the chimney and fireplace.

Final Findings:

Fire cause and origin is a subset of the overall fire investigation methodology as promulgated by NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation.  In order to make a determination, the investigator is attempting to determine what the initial fuel was (typically the origin), the source of heat, the source of oxidizing agent (typically air), and if an uninhibited chemical reaction could occur (conditions).

Although the preliminary theory was that the home had experienced a chimney fire, there was no evidence, based on fire patterns, photos and videos of the fire in progress, that the chimney was the cause or origin of the fire.  The homeowners stated that the fireplace had not been used since the night before the fire.

The firefighting response was timely, and electrical service was cut to the home shortly after the report of fire.  Electrical breaker activity pointed to the center of the home or kitchen as the area of origin.  The lack of arcing or breaker activity around the chimney and first floor fireplace area or in the bathroom constructed directly underneath the chimney, showed that the fire did not originate at or about the chimney.

Laboratory examination of the fire patterns of the fireplace and chimney revealed no evidence that the fire originated as a result of improper fireplace construction and installation or from an insufficient clearance between the fire box, chimney flue system and the wood framing of the chimney.