The Fire and Rescue Service do not have a statutory duty to investigate fires but are central in the process. They are often the first to arrive at a fire and information gained by the responding crews can provide vital intelligence to others in coming to a view as to whether the incident is deliberate or accidental.
Arson is seen by many to be a problem for the Fire Service to address and whilst much work is undertaken by the Fire Service, they are not able to resolve this issue on their own. They neither have the resources or the locus to do this but have a valuable contribution to make.
It has been highlighted that the additional burden being placed on Fire and Rescue Services wishing to support criminal investigation of having to obtain accreditation (along with a review of how this support may be delivered with the appropriate, qualified/competent staff with robust quality standards) may result in some Services deciding that they are no longer able to deliver against the Forensic Regulators requirements and withdraw support.
There are some notable examples where police officers have been seconded to fire and rescue services to assist identify and tackle arson. This is being captured and will be shared with the National Collaboration overview report that is undertaken by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners each year.
Discussions with the Insurance Fraud Bureau has confirmed that fire officers could report concerns via a 24/7 Cheat line telephone service operated by crimestoppers. Alternatively, fire officers could use the IFB online reporting system via the IFB website (Insurance Fraud Bureau, 2016). Fire officers could also make an intelligence submission via a secure email. None of these systems are used extensively at present but are worth of consideration.
Fire and Rescue Services are encouraged to report every deliberate fire to the Police as they can then determine what action is required. In addition, Fire and Rescue Services are encouraged to ensure that responding crews to potential arson (crime scene) are trained and aware as to the practices and requirements on successful evidence gathering by the Police. It will also be useful to ensure that performance information as to the number of fires that are referred to the Police for investigation and joint reviews are undertaken to consider how evidence gathering and scene preservation can be further improved.