SARATOGA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — ATF instructors turning up the heat in Saratoga on Thursday teaching arson investigators from across the state and Canada how to spot the start of an appliance fire.
“What something looks like before it’s burned and what it looks like after a fire has affected it is completely different,” explains ATF Special Agent and Certified Fire Investigator Mark Meeks.
Thursday’s training organized by the International Association of Arson Investigators New York chapter. The group invited the ATF to teach more than 100 participants the ins and outs of a typical appliance like toasters, heaters, and hair dryers by taking them apart then putting each tiny piece back where they found it.
“Understanding the electricity and the inner workings of a small appliance, and how failure modes can occur,” says IAAI Chapter Vice President Scott Shear.
Then it’s time to light them up, testing to see which method sets each household item aflame the fastest. The exercise challenging participants to spot signs an appliance failure may actually have been caused by tampering with the device.
“So they can see the before and after, so when they go to a fire scene, they’re educated in what they’re supposed to be looking for,” Meeks explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Organizers say as new technology enters our homes every year, investigators need to keep their skills sharp.
“We are seeing more and more smart appliances in the home. Your thermostat, your fire detectors, plugs that you put into your outlets are all Wi-Fi oriented,” says Shear.
“If we can utilize that data, we can extract that data from either remotely at a cloud site or actually from the SIM cards when we recover them in the fire scene, helps us identify timelines,” adds Meeks. “So for example, they can tell us when the fire started and from where in the home.”
Training will continue into Friday at the Saratoga Holiday Inn.