How Do Electrical Engineers Help Solve Fire Investigations?

Fires can break out in a wide variety of situations, with a plethora of potential causes. When fire investigators find themselves stumped by the possible cause of a fire, they consult with various forensic experts in different fields.

Electrical engineers have proven valuable time and time again in helping to solve fire investigations. Let’s look more closely at what they do to locate the origin of a fire.

Testing the System

Locations with a great deal of electrical wiring and appliances are at greater risk of fire, as improper grounding and faulty circuits can cause dangerous shorts. Forensic electrical engineers often begin their portion of the investigation by testing the functionality of the wiring and the condition of any fuse boxes. The information they gather when testing the electrical system can point investigators toward the true origin of the fire.

Performing Failure Analysis

When the fire department sees an electrical appliance severely damaged by fire, they may suspect that a fault in that appliance caused the fire. Forensic engineers often come in on a consulting basis to perform electrical appliance failure analysis and determine which component failed and started the fire.

There are several different modes of failure analysis, each designed to pinpoint weaknesses in the appliance’s functionality. Often, the engineer creates a list of all potential failures that could have caused the fire, then tests them one by one.

Gathering Available Facts

To get a clearer picture of how the electrical system worked before the fire, forensic engineers research the system’s history. They interview individuals who work with the system in question to determine if there was a pattern of electrical failures leading up to the fire. Engineers also look up the manufacturers of all equipment hooked up to the system in search of product recalls or potential faulty components.

If a fire department has difficulty solving a fire investigation that involves electrical equipment, they’ll often bring in electrical engineers to consult on the case. Engineers who specialize in forensics do a great deal of detective work and system testing to narrow down which electrical component caused the fire.

By Dianne Pajo

Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.