SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHH123703
Module Leader Kevin Day
School School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment
Subject Civil Engineering and Environmental Management
  • B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Successful completion of Level 3

Summary of Content

The module will develop student's ability to undertake a scientific fire investigation of a fire scene while ensuring the requirements with respect to safety, scene preservation, evidence collection and presentation are fully achieved.


Introduction: History of fire investigation; Economic, moral and legal reasons for investigating fires. Management of the fire investigation: The legal framework; Investigative procedures, interviews and interview records, note book rules, scene photographs; issues of data protection, report writing; preparing a case file, rules of evidence. Examining the fire scene: Health and safety risk assessment prior to and during an investigation, operating safely within the Inner Cordon; Locating the scene of fire, identifying the point of ignition, radius of error, fire spread patterns, indications of slow and rapid fire growth, the impact of firefighting operations, post fire excavation of the scene; gathering evidence, collecting samples at the fire scene and ensuring continuity of evidence; Fabrics and clothing: Types of cloth; regulations on flammable fabrics; furniture testing; flammability testing. Arson: Statistics motivation and methods; the analysis of hydrocarbon materials in cases of suspected arson; incendiaries. Typecasting in terms of method, age and sex; juvenile fire setters; strategies for combating arson. Fire and explosion accidental causes: Services and appliances; Electricity; Smoking materials; Flying brands; Spontaneous ignition. Wildfires: Fire behaviour in an external environment; investigation methodology; scene search; burn indicators; typical wildfire causes. Vehicle fire sources of ignition: Electrical, chemical heating, mechanical heating; fuel options. Laboratory services: Availability; general fire evidence; identification of volatile accelerants; chemical incendiaries; none fire-related criminal evidence. Fire-related deaths and injuries: Sources of carbon monoxide; carbon monoxide asphyxiations; The effects of fire on the human body; the consistent factor of drugs and alcohol in fire-related deaths; the role of the Pathologist and Coroner. The insurers perspective: The role of the loss adjustors and loss assessors.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student should be able to:1. Demonstrate an understanding of the investigation methods for determining causes of fire and fire dynamics and the ability to apply these methods (FR: A2, B6, B4, C2, D1, D2) 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the combustion properties of fuels, types of explosives and incendiary devices (FR: A2, A5, B1, B2, B4,C1, C2, C3,)3. Identify and interpret char and burn patterns recognising the physical characteristics of arson fires building designs (FR: A2, A5, B1, B2, B5, B6, C1, C3, C6, D1, D2 )4. Demonstrate an understanding of fire investigation processes including the important roles and evidence associated with different fire safety agencies and personnel participating in fire investigation (FR A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2, C3, D1, D2, 5. Structure and present a valid scientific fact based fire investigation (FR B1, B2, B5, C3, C6, D1, D2, D9, D10, D13)6. Analyse and critique a range of fire investigation reports from minor to major incidents (FR B5, B6, C1, C3, C4, D3, D4, D7)7. Critically assess the evidence recovered and wanted by different agencies (FR B5, B6, C1, C3, C4, D3, D4, D7)

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Lectures, laboratory and/or field exercise, class seminar and tutorial examples. The subject will be delivered through a series of formal lectures and seminars, where students will have the opportunity to review specific case studies which will form the basis of seminar work. Students will be expected to present specific study material to developing their independent learning skills and enabling students to take a more active role in their learning. The lectures will include invited speakers from outside the University whom have up-to-date and practical expertise in safety case development and management.

Indicative Reading

De Haan, J., (2014) Kirks Fire Investigation Pearson New International Edition, Pearson Education, Limited, 2014 NiamhNicDaeid, (2004) Fire Investigation (International Forensic Science and Investigation) CRS Press Cooke, R.A. and Ide R.W., (1985) Principles of Fire Investigation), IFE, FireServiceCollege Arson and Fire Investigation, (1990) Factory and Mutual International NFPA 921, (2011) Guide to Fire and Explosion Investigation, National Fire Protection Association Vytenis Babrauskas, 2003 The Ignition Handbook, Fire Science Publishers. Arson Intelligence (Newsletter) Arson Prevention Bureau Fire and Arson Investigator (Journal) International Association of Arson Investigators Dian L Williams, (2005), Understanding the Arsonist from Assessment to Confession, Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company. John J Letini, (2006), Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation. Taylor and Francis

Transferrable Skills

D1, D2, D3, D7, D10, D12, D13, D14

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Assessment (PT) 33.00
Practicals (PT) 4.00
Lectures (FT) 28.00
Seminars (PT) 4.00
Independent Learning (PT) 131.00
Assessment (FT) 33.00
Lectures (PT) 28.00
Practicals (FT) 4.00
Seminars (FT) 4.00
Independent Learning (FDL) 200.00
Independent Learning (FT) 131.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 n/a 30.00 35% Evacuation analysis management plan
Exam (Exams Office) 3.00 70.00 35% 3 hour unseen written exam