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
State Fire Marshal's Office
County Sheriff's Department
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms
County District Attorney's Office
State Insurance Fraud Bureau
City of -------, and the ------- Police & Fire Departments
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.
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,
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
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.
-------- 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
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
-------- 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
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.
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.
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
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 --------
|-------- Fire Department
|-----------------, Chief of Department
|-------- Police Department
|-----------------, Chief of Department
|-----------------, County Executive
|-------- County Sheriff's Department
|-------- State Police
|---------------, Major, -------- State Police
|-------- Office of the State Fire Marshal
|---------------, Chief Fire Marshal
|Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms
|---------------, Special Agent in Charge
|-------- County District Attorney's Office
|---------------, District Attorney
|-------- County Arson Task Force