Marine Fire Investigation Scenes
Blaze Fire Investigation is now known as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)
You might think that it’s redundant to talk about the scene of a boat fire, but marine fire investigation includes fire scenes that are above, below and out of the water.
The fire scene – below the water
Because the scene of a boat fire is usually on the water, there are inherent difficulties that are present in the analysis and recovery of the damaged vessel. If the boat has sunk, the investigation needs to begin by documenting the scene with underwater photographs. Depending upon how deep the water is, the spread diameter of debris can be quite extensive. In addition to providing valuable information about what happened to the boat, the photo documentation operates as a check system to assure that all possible artifacts have been recovered. Because of the movement of water, and the potential presence of vegetation and rugged underwater terrain, it isn’t always possible to collect all debris but that is the goal for this part of the marine fire investigation.
The fire scene – above the water
When a scene includes a vessel that is still on the water, investigators need to be cautious with their movements, determining if the boat is safe to enter. In addition, fluids within the various systems will leak into the void spaces in the vessel and migrate into the surrounding water creating an environmental issue. Containment of any spill will be necessary as will notification to the area Environmental Protection Agent or Water Reclamation District.
On or under the water, the next part of the investigation will take place on a hard deck. The process of moving the boat to the hard deck is complex requiring the expertise of marine salvagers. The weight of water from a split or sunk hull adds to the difficulty in bringing it to the surface or moving out of a marine or dock area. This process could further damage the boat as it is pulled from the water causing evidence to be lost. Custody of the boat is determined by the authority of jurisdiction. That authority will make decisions about the recovery process; who has custody of the watercraft; and what measures are necessary to assure security.
The fire scene – at a storage facility
When a boat fire occurs when it is in a storage facility, handling the scene requires procedures that would be similar to those used for an incident that involved a car in a garage. However, knowledge of boat owner and yacht yard common practices are key to guiding interviews and analysis that will help to uncover the origin and cause of the fire. These common practices could include the way the boat was stored, and the methods and materials that were being used to work on the boats when the fire started. With boats being stored in close proximity, work on one vessel could potentially provide the spark that ignites a vapor source that originates from another vessel.
Marine fire investigation experts
Marine Fire Investigation is a specialty that is offered by Blaze Fire Investigation. Contact us to assign a project or to learn more about our fire investigation and forensic engineering services.