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Suggested Memorandum of Understanding

interFIRE VR offers this Memorandum of Understanding (adopted from a real MOU) as a model to assist fire/arson investigators draw up a unique document for their community. Dashes (---------) are to be replaced by municipality, county, state, or other local name.


Memorandum of Understanding For Investigative Services

Between the
State Fire Marshal's Office
and the
County Sheriff's Department
and the
State Police
and the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms
and the
County District Attorney's Office
and the
US Attorney
and the
State Insurance Fraud Bureau
with the
City of -------, and the ------- Police & Fire Departments

Purpose

The purpose of an Memorandum of Understanding is to establish an interagency agreement on the level and duration of response and commitment, investigative methodology, level of financial and technical support and other matters critical to the success of the mission to reduce arson.

The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to establish response and investigative protocols, pursuant to which the agencies listed above agree to provide assistance to the City of ----- in responding to the demands of fire and arson incidence in the city.

It is understood that the crime of arson represents both a fire service problem and a law enforcement problem for a community. Experience shows that the most effective deterrent to arson lies both in effective investigation of every fire and taking proactive preventative measures . Personnel assigned to conduct fire investigation must be skilled in origin & cause determination, physical evidence collection, interviewing and interrogation, and case preparation and documentation. Accomplishment of the mission to significantly reduce arson in the City of -------- requires the full commitment of all fire service and law enforcement personnel, Prosecutors and other allied agencies working together with the community.

It is the purpose of this agreement that all the agencies listed agree to form the -------- Arson Strike Force.

Article 1
Standardized Fire Notification

1. SOLE REQUESTING/NOTIFICATION AUTHORITY. The -------- Fire Department is designated as the sole requesting authority for the investigative services of the -------- Police Department, -------- State Police, the State Fire Office, the Sheriff's Department and ATF for fires or explosions occurring within its jurisdiction.

2. WHEN TO NOTIFY. In addition to the notification requirements established under applicable state law, the -------- Fire Department agrees to immediately notify the Strike Force during duty hours and the duty Strike Force Team Leader ("Team Leader") during off-duty hours via pager of every fire as soon as it is confirmed.

3. INFORMATION NEEDED: Whenever the -------- Fire Department notifies the duty Team leader of a fire, the reporting officer or dispatcher shall provide that representative with the following information as a minimum:

A. Date/ time, and location of the incident.

B. Description of the incident:

- Fatal or critical injury to any person

- Evacuation of occupants

- Multiple structures

- Commercial building

- Structural fire incident within the "Target Area"

C. Preliminary cause if known (i.e., arson, suspicious, undetermined, accidental.)

4. INVESTIGATIVE COORDINATION. In those cases where a request for an investigator is made, the -------- Fire Department Investigator shall coordinate closely with the -------- Police, State Police, State Fire Office, Sheriffís Department, and ATF Investigators during the entire investigative process. The Strike Force Commander shall be appointed by the -------- Police Department.

The Strike Force Commander shall have line supervisory authority over all personnel for the purpose of conducting fire and arson investigations within the City of --------. He shall establish several "Teams" from assigned investigators taking into account the fire/arson investigation experience and training of each individual so that each of the Teams will be approximately equal in capability. The Strike Force Commander shall create a duty roster which assigns responsibility to individual Teams for immediate response to in- progress fires on a rotational basis during off-duty hours to include the overnight shift, weekends and holidays. The -------- Fire Marshal will respond to all protocol fires occurring during Strike Force off-duty hours.

The Strike Force Commander shall meet with each Team after its formation and shall help to select a "Team Leader". This individual shall have line supervisory authority of other members of his Team for the purpose of conducting fire and arson investigations and associated activities in the City of --------. The Team leader will utilize the Incident Command System (ICS) at fire scenes for the purposes of safely coordinating investigations and fire scene examinations.

The Strike Force Commander shall create a roster of investigative personnel with telephone numbers and pager numbers to facilitate immediate notification in emergencies. This roster will be distributed to all investigative personnel on the Strike Force.

Investigators, Team Leaders, and the Strike Force Commander shall be individually responsible to safely and legally carry out the investigative function of the -------- Arson Strike Force. Unit supervisors shall maintain constant communication with the -------- County District Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office on operational functions such as obtaining and serving search and arrest warrants, case development and status, and other legal matters.

The Strike Force Commander shall be directly and immediately notified in any situation where there are deaths or high priority fire or explosion incidents. He shall have the authority to order multiple Team response as dictated by the situation.

Article 2

-------- ARSON STRIKE FORCE RESPONSILIBILIES AND INVESTIGATION PROTOCOL:

1. HIGH PRIORITY STRIKE FORCE TEAM RESPONSES: The "on-duty" Team shall IMMEDIATELY respond to and investigate all fires in the City of -------- that come under the following high priority categories:

A. Fires or explosions causing the death of any person.

B. Suspicious or undetermined fires or explosions resulting in critical injury to any person.

C. Suspicious or undetermined fires or explosions resulting in the evacuation of any person from a building.

D. Suspicious or undetermined fires or explosions resulting in destruction to multiple buildings or structures.

E. Fire or explosion causing destruction to any government property or to any storage facility containing and storing public documents.

F. Fire or explosion damage to a commercial or residential structure of suspicious, unknown cause or of substantial nature.

G. Any other fire or explosion incident causing damage to a building.

2. OTHER ON-DUTY RESPONSE TEAM INVESTIGATIONS: All agencies participating in the -------- Arson Task Force may participate in the investigation of non-protocol fires or explosions occurring in the City of -------- not cited above, provided that:

A. City of -------- investigators promptly and properly report the incident to the -------- Arson Strike Force Commanding Officer, or designee, or to the on-duty Team Leader.

B. There is a commitment by the -------- Fire and Police Departments to assist in the investigation utilizing the following steps:

a. Recognize that excessive overhaul can destroy any possibility of reconstruct of a fire scene. Secure the area of fire origin and apply every practical means possible to protect possible evidence (including wall and ceiling burn patterns and interior contents).

b. Participate in the excavation and reconstruction of the area of fire origin.

c. Conduct written interviews as a normal part of every investigation in cooperation with the State Fire Office Investigator, state police, Sheriffís Department and ATF Agents.

d. Make arrangements to interview ìfirst-inî fire personnel involved in suppression efforts prior to the end of their shift.

C. The decision to investigate any fire not described in section 1 of this article, shall be at the discretion of the -------- Arson Strike Force Commander, or his designee, and shall be based upon the following consideration:

a. Availability of leads and/or case solvability factors.

b. Availability of investigative resources under the current workload.

c. The severity of the incident.

3. AVAILABLIITY OF AN ACCELERANT DETECTION CANINE TEAM - The State Fire Office shall make available to the -------- Arson Strike Force on a 24 hour a day basis the services of an Accelerant Detection Canine (AK-9) Team for fires that appear unusual or suspicious or may be considered of incendiary origin. All requests must be made by the -------- Arson Strike Force directly to the assigned AK-9 handler, providing the following information for a AK-9 Team response:

A. Date, time and location of the incident.

B. Description of the fire incident, stage of fire suppression activity, structural collapse or other hazards which may affect the AK-9 search.

C. The AK-9 handler will make the final decision on the use of his canine partner taking into consideration the stability of the building, hazardous material, safety issues or other appropriate concerns.

D. Debris removal utilizing gasoline powered heavy equipment shall not commence until the fire incident Commander, Team leader and AK-9 handler have conferred and authorized such action.

E. No gasoline or other fuel powered tools or equipment other than those necessary for fire suppression and control shall be used in or around the fire building until inspected by the AK-9 handler.

F. The AK-9 handler will not use his canine partner when in his opinion the fire scene has not been properly cleared, is unsafe, or has been contaminated.

G. State Fire Office AK-9 handlers shall not be requested when many hours of scene preparation or debris removal remain to be done. All collapsed heavy debris shall be removed from the surfaces or areas to be examined prior to the AK-9 response.

H. The ADC handler will not use the canine, when, in his opinion, the fire scene has not been properly cleared or is unsafe for himself or his AK-9.

Article 3

-------- ARSON STRIKE FORCE INVESTIGATION PROTOCOL

All agencies participating in the -------- Arson Strike Force agree to conform their investigation operations to the Investigation Protocol described herein. This protocol requires that the following sequence occur immediately after receipt of a report on a working fire anywhere in the City of --------.

1. IMMEDIATE TEAM RESPONSE TO A DESIGNATED CATEGORY FIRE: The immediate dispatch of the on-duty team to any structure fire which falls within the definition of a designated incident 24 hours a day.

2. IMMEDIATE NOTIFICATION OF THE -------- ARSON STRIKE FORCE COMMANDER OR HIS DESIGNEE: In fire incidents falling within the definition of "High Priority" as described in Article 2, Section 1.

3. The -------- Arson Strike Force shall respond to all structural fires occurring in the City on a 24 hour a day - 7 day a week basis.

4. Vehicle fires and other categories of fires such as outside fires not involving a structure may be investigated by the Strike Force if the -------- Fire Department Company Officer determines the fire was incendiary and if there is sufficient resources available at the Strike Force.

5. Juvenile offenders involved in arson cases will be referred to the -------- Police Departmentís Juvenile Aid Bureau for prosecution.

6. It will be the policy of the -------- Arson Strike Force to seek prosecute of any person who intentionally sets a fire in the City of -------- consistent with state law.

7. The -------- Arson Strike Force recognizes that arson cases are frequently circumstantial in nature and often depend heavily on developing pertinent information from fact witnesses. The Strike Force also recognizes that fire scene origin and cause examination can be a complex process. Here again, developing information from early witnesses to the incipient fire including victims, abutters, the reporting party, first in firefighters and other persons will often provide important information. Such witness observations usually serve to corroborate the origin and cause examination results. It is critical that these persons be identified and interviewed. The investigation protocol of the -------- Arson Strike Force is designed to secure, and not lose, this invaluable source of potential evidence. Investigators from this Strike Force will follow the protocol as described herein:

a. INTERVIEW FLEETING WITNESSES IMMEDIATELY - In any fire, the first fire investigator on the scene shall briefly size up the fire origin to determine the room of origin, secure obvious physical evidence and manage overhaul. Following this activity, which should only take a few minutes, Strike Force investigators will focus their efforts to identifying potential "fleeting witnesses" (such as the passer-by who discovered or reported the fire or other early witnesses who may have stopped to render assistance). Experience has shown that these people will leave the scene during fireground operations. Unless they are identified and interviewed during firefighting operations there usually is no way to identify or relocate them. Those building occupants who lived or worked closest to the fireís origin shall be interviewed next to document any observations or knowledge they may have about fire hazards and the sequence of events surrounding the fire's initiation and development. Abbutters and line of sight neighbors are interviewed next. All initial interviews conducted by members of the -------- Arson Task Force shall be reduced to written statements or will be audiotaped or videotaped in accordance with the recommended procedure.

b. BEGIN PROCESSING THE SCENE AFTER IMPORTANT INTERVIEWS ARE COMPLETED: As soon as practical after available important witnesses are interviewed for details about the probable fire origin and flow of events the examination of the fire scene may begin. Excavation of collapsed debris not germane to the cause of the fire and reconstruction of remains of furniture or other items to their pre-fire position are important phases of fire flow analysis.. Origin and cause examinations shall conform, step by step, to the Unit's training.

Each area of fire origin requires through excavation, reconstruction, analysis and documentation. Evidence will be taken in accordance with best practices and existing policies providing that all phases of recovery are documented and a chain of custody is constantly maintained. All evidence taken during -------- Arson Strike Force investigations will be secured in the Unit's contraband room pending analysis or presentation to a court unless other arrangements are approved by the Strike Force Commander.

c. SET UP AN INCIDENT MASTER FILE - An ìIncident Master Fileî should be set up as soon as is practical into an investigation. All statements, consent forms, search warrants, signed Miranda cards, and other data collected by individual investigators shall be placed into this file at the end of each day. Photocopies of the file materials shall be taken back to the field by a Team supervisor or case officer in a ìworking fileî. For the system to work correctly, information must flow freely and constantly among all investigators. For the system to work at all, every investigator has a right to know that other investigators are working effectively toward a common objective. Master files will be retained in the Strike Force Commander's Office and will be accessible to supervisory personnel only.

d. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMER FILE - A file containing information on confidential informants will be established by the -------- Strike Force Commander. This file shall contain biographical information on the identity of each informant, a photograph, a current Probation Record, and a log of information provided.

ARTICLE 4
Media Coordination During a Joint Investigation

It is important to provide a focal point for the orderly and consistent dissemination of information to the public. This avoids conflicting, misleading or premature statements about investigative findings. To this end the following procedures shall be followed:

1. ESTABLISHING CONTACT WITH THE FIREGROUND COMMANDER. The Response Team leader, or his designee, shall upon arrival on the fire scene, immediately establish contact with the fireground commander for the purpose of coordinating any release of information to the media regarding theories concerning any potential fire cause or concerning Strike Force operations at that scene.

2. COMMUNICATING WITH THE MEDIA: All statements to the media shall be made through the fireground commander or the highest ranking -------- Arson Strike Force Investigator on the scene. The details of investigative findings shall not be released or commented upon to the media until the Response Team Leader or Strike Force Commander affirm the accuracy and wisdom of doing so. However, nothing in this agreement shall be construed to constrain the Chief of the -------- Fire or Police Departments, the -------- County District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Attorney, the Insurance Fraud Bureau, the -------- Department of State Office of Fire Prevention & Control , the -------- County Sheriff, the -------- State Police, or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms from discussing the overall mission of the Task Force as distinguished from providing details about a specific investigation.

Article 5
Terms of Agreement

Law enforcement and Fire Service agencies agree to commit, at their own expense, the following number of investigative personnel to participate in the -------- Arson Strike Force for a period of six months to work on a daily basis towards the objective of the Strike Force to reduce arson in the City of --------. Strike Force investigators will continue to be employees of their respective agencies. These agencies agree that the assigned personnel will be under the line control of the Strike Force Commander, or his designee, for the purpose of fire/arson investigation operations and related activities.

a. -------- Police Department - three detectives

b. -------- Fire Department - one investigator

c. -------- State Police - two detectives

d. -------- County Sheriffís Department - two investigators

e. -------- Office of Fire Prevention and Control - two investigators

f. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms - one agent

All agencies agree to fully support their assigned personnelís ability to fully participate in the operation by supplying all necessary fire investigation and personal safety equipment required to conduct this function. Because of the nature of the problem and the complexity of the investigations it will be necessary for each agency to provide sufficient overtime compensation to its personnel.

Each participating agency and all assigned personnel agree to comply with all applicable state and federal OSHA Regulatory Safety Guidelines 1910.120.

In the event of a legal action alleging wrongdoing on the part of an individual investigator the agency to which the individual belongs will assume costs associated with the defense and indemnification of their personnel.

The -------- Fire Department Incident Commander or Safety Officer shall be responsible to make an assessment of the structural integrity of any building damaged by fire or explosion and determine what additional hazards which may be present. Strike Force operations shall be governed by his counsel.

The -------- Arson Strike Force shall employ independent experts to conduct complex examinations whenever necessary. Property insurance companies who insure a given loss shall be solicited for funding for this purpose. Alternative funding sources for such examinations in cases where no insurance is present will be explored in conjunction with the District Attorneyís Office and Corporation Counsel.

The City of -------- agrees to provide a suitable and secure facility for the Strike Force. The City also agrees to fund the costs of the Strike Force telephone and other ordinary administrative costs.

This Memorandum of Understanding is in effect upon signature of all parties. It shall remain in effect unless rescinded in writing by any party on fourteen days written notice or revised in writing by mutual consent. This MOU shall be reviewed twelve months after the date of execution and every year thereafter.

Support and Agreement

I pledge my support and agreement to the terms of mutual commitment to work together in the reduction of fire and arson in the City of --------.

City of --------  
___________________________________ ____________________
-----------------, Mayor Date
   
-------- Fire Department  
___________________________________ ____________________
-----------------, Chief of Department Date
   
-------- Police Department  
___________________________________ ____________________
-----------------, Chief of Department Date
   
-------- County  
___________________________________ ____________________
-----------------, County Executive Date
   
-------- County Sheriff's Department  
___________________________________ ____________________
-----------------, Sheriff Date
   
-------- State Police  
___________________________________ ____________________
---------------, Major, -------- State Police Date
   
-------- Office of the State Fire Marshal  
___________________________________ ____________________
---------------, Chief Fire Marshal Date
   
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms  
___________________________________ ____________________
---------------, Special Agent in Charge Date
   
-------- County District Attorney's Office  
___________________________________ ____________________
---------------, District Attorney Date
   
-------- County Arson Task Force  
___________________________________ ____________________
---------------, Chairperson Date

 
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