When Union Township Fire Department Lieutenant Robert Cabral attended the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) Annual Training Conference in Texas in late May, he was there to accept the Guy E. (Sandy) Burnett Outstanding Accomplishment Award on behalf of the Clermont County Fire Investigation Team. Little did he know that he personally would be honored with the highest award presented by this organization, the Life Membership Award, for his involvement with the organization on a chapter level.
Cabral is currently serving his third term as Ohio Chapter president, which is unprecedented in the organization’s history. The Ohio Chapter of the IAAI was the first within the organization and was established in the early 1950s.
The IAAI is comprised of 80 chapters that operate in at least 39 countries. It is internationally recognized as the leading organization in fire investigation training and certification to firefighters involved in investigation.
Cabral said that the Union Township Fire Department is “ … committed to providing service that exceeds the expectations of the community it serves.”
“One aspect of the service is the process of investigating the origin and cause of fires that occur within its jurisdiction,” Cabral said. “The results of the investigation can be as serious as fire set in commission of the crime of fraud, to fires of an accidental nature where a consumer product has failed, causing property damage or injury to persons or death.”
“The commitment and dedication to this aspect of the service we provide is visible in the quality of the investigation and reputation that Union Township’s fire investigators have amongst our peers in the industry,” Cabral said.
The Clermont County Fire Investigation Team (CCFIT), under the direction of Team Commander Chief Stan Deimling, serves as a committee of the Fire and EMS Chiefs Alliance of Clermont County. Its current membership numbers about 35, including members of the Union Township Fire Department, and includes representation across most of the fire agencies in the county as well as other agencies such as the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office, Clermont County Coroner’s Office, and the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office. In addition, the team maintains close working relationships with multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Clermont County Prosecutor’s Office, the Ohio State Arson/Crime Lab, insurance agencies and other public and private cause/origin investigators.
Deimling said that every fire that occurs in Clermont County is investigated initially by the local authority having jurisdiction in an attempt to determine origin and cause. If additional assistance is needed, the CCFIT is asked to respond.
“Since 2008, the team has responded to 355 fires,” Deimling said. “Through the careful scientific analysis of a fire scene, in addition to establishing intentional acts, it is possible to detect trends in accidental fires, such as product defects, improper installation, improper use or equipment failures, which, when coupled with fire prevention and education efforts, can lead to the prevention of future similar fire-related events.”
CCFIT meets every other month to conduct case reviews on every incident, get updates on open cases, and conducts trainings on current standards, equipment and operating guidelines. Since 2010, it has hosted an annual regional fire investigation conference, bringing together fire investigators (both public and private), law enforcement and insurance representatives from throughout the region.
Currently, CCFIT has three team leaders and is supported by two fire investigation vehicles, one support/command trailer, and an ignitable liquid detection K-9, handled by Deimling.
CCFIT was recognized in August, 2016, by the Ohio Chapter of the IAAI, with a Certificate of Merit Award for “ … continually providing significant contributions in support of all types of fire or explosion investigations including the suppression of arson in the State of Ohio,” and honored with the Guy E. (Sandy) Burnett Outstanding Accomplishment Award in May, 2018.
UTFD Chief Stan Deimling, left, and Asst. Chief Mark Fyffe, display the IAAI Guy E. “Sandy” Burnett Outstanding Accomplishment Award on behalf of the Clermont County Fire Investigation Team.