Helena Interagency Fire Investigation Team’s collaborative efforts paying off

Last week both state and local agencies including fire and police participated in a meeting of the Helena Interagency Fire Investigation Team. This group has set a goal of meeting each month to talk about conducting fire investigation to determine if certain blazes are deliberately set or to its probable cause.

Police Chief Curt Stinson says putting this into a collaborative effort been a tremendous help.

“They’re (fire investigations) usually complex,” he said. “We don’t want to rely on law enforcement investigators to be doing fire investigation part of it and then also not relying on fireman not to be doing the criminal aspect of it. We kind of took he fire investigation and took a multi-disciplinary approach to that in kind of pooling knowledge, resources and expertise.

Helena Fire Department’s Acting Fire Marshall Lou Antonick stresses the important of arriving on scene timing is of the essence.

“The weather in the wild land setting, topography in the wild land setting, the size and type of the structure, a lot of different things (could be the cause of a fire),” Antonick said. “Doors open, doors close, they all have a direct impact on the fire. Then, obviously the fire itself burning up a lot of evidence, stuff that we need to figure out what happened. Trying to package all that stuff together is a very tedious process.”

This committee has been in place the last four years and by all accounts is making significant progress through a co-operative effort between police and fire.