So You’re a CFI…What Does That Mean?

By Carol Chavez, Business & Marketing Manager

In addition to the multi-disciplined forensic engineering services offered, AEI Corporation (Advanced Engineering Investigations) also has a number of professionals who are Certified Fire Investigators (CFI). Cameron Novak, Todd Hedglin, John Schumacher, and Dennis Shelp are all CFI’s. When talking about these individuals, this means they have completed and satisfied some fairly rigorous education, training, and field experience requirements, and passed the International Association of Arson Investigators’ (IAAI) CFI examination.

The purpose of the CFI certification is to communicate that an individual has demonstrated they are competent in all aspects of fire investigation. This is accomplished through demonstration and documentation of education, training, and experience directly applicable to fire investigations. Guidelines as to the diversity of the education, training, and experience are in place to assure that individuals demonstrate not only academic and theoretical background, but also substantial field experience. Once these requirements can be certified, the applicant for CFI status must pass an examination. After achieving CFI status, the individual must renew their certification every 5 years in order to retain the designation.

The IAAI-CFI designation is based on the requirements set forth in NFPA 1033: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator (1033). This applies equally to fire investigators in both the public and private sector. 1033 lists the requisite knowledge and job performance requirements for fire investigators to ensure that they are competent in their duties. There is also a list of 16 topics that investigators must maintain an up-to-date knowledge, beyond a high school level. These 16 topics are:

1) Fire science

2) Fire chemistry

3) Thermodynamics

4) Thermometry

5) Fire dynamics

6) Explosion dynamics

7) Computer fire modeling

8) Fire investigation

9) Fire analysis

10) Fire investigation methodology

11) Fire investigation technology

12) Hazardous materials

13) Failure analysis and analytical tools

14) Fire protection systems

15) Evidence documentation, collection, and preservation

16) Electricity and electrical systems

The education and experience qualification requirements are comprised of a mix of elements. Examples of some of these components include an associates, bachelors, masters or doctoral degree in the field of Fire Investigation or related discipline, gainful employment as a fire investigator, work as a fire department lieutenant or police department sergeant, time employed as a firefighter or patrolman, lectures given by the applicant on the topic of fire investigations, etc. Note that this is not an all inclusive listing, just a sample of various elements that can be used to achieve the required 150 points needed for an individual to apply to take the CFI examination. For each qualification an applicant uses to get to the required point total, documentation verifying the item is required to be submitted with their application. There are maximum points allowed in each area to ensure applicants are well rounded not only in education and theory, but also practical field experience.

The five year re-certification process requires a designee have a minimum of 50 points accumulated since their last certification process. By going through this process individuals keep up on current training, professional development and education in their field.

While an investigator is under no obligation to complete the rigorous process of becoming a CFI through the IAAI, for those of you who have the need of a fire investigators’ services, it is a way to know you are hiring an individual with substantive educational, theoretical and field experience relative to fire investigations, who is required to continually stay current in these areas.

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