arson investigations armed with facts, science and a computer. Firehouse. Vol.
19 No. 2 (February 1994), p 50-52.
Abstract: This article discusses how the certified fire investigators
(CFI's) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) use computer
models to help in their investigations.
ATF's CFI's must go through several weeks of initial training, and then ongoing
training to maintain their certification. Several professors from the
University of Maryland are involved in teaching these programs. As part of this
training the CFI's are taught how to use computer models as another tool when
conducting cause and origin determination.
Dr. Quintere, one of the professors involved, stresses that the computer models
are tools and are not necessarily the definitive solution. However, there have
been several cases where the answers provided by a computer model were
successful in overcoming the defense's arguments and winning the case.
ATF began using the computer modeling programs following the Dupont Hotel fire
in Puerto Rico in 1987. Dr. Quintere and Bud Nelson, both with the National
Institute of Technology (NIST) at the time were working on the scene developing
computer models of the fire. They were working closely with ATF during the
incident, and both organizations realized how computer models could be a
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