Iraqi firefighters learn essential skills at first ever arson investigation training
June 20, 2011
BAGHDAD, June 20, 2011 -- After a firefighter finishes the primary job of extinguishing a fire, another complex, arguably as important, task begins. Iraqi firefighters are now learning advanced skills to investigate and determine the cause and origin of fires.
The Iraqi Ministry of Interior, Civil Defense Directorate, is working in conjunction with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Iraq Training and Advisory Mission Police to teach an eight-day arson investigation course to future Iraqi firefighter trainers.
“The whole goal in this training endeavor is to work with these students in a train-the-trainer type of capacity to identify the capability, knowledge, skills and abilities of the students,” said Brandt Schenken, ATF attache, U.S. Embassy Baghdad.
Agent Schenken and other ATF agents are teaching the first course to the Iraqi firefighters, but they plan to lead less with each progression.
“The next delivery we hope to have is a joint delivery with the Civil Defense Directorate, where we will be mentoring them through it and providing assistance,” Schenken said. “Ultimately, in the third delivery, we would like it to be the Iraqi CDD delivering the class to their own students with us just providing assistance in the background.”
ATF has provided the foundation for the directorate to begin developing their own training.
In the culmination of this inaugural course, the instructors started a fire for the students to put out during their final practical exercise June 13, 2011.
“What we are hoping to do is take this room into what is called “flash over,” which is when a fire in a room becomes a room on fire,” Schenken said. “Hopefully, it will cause a lot of fire damage and give the students a big challenge when it comes to trying to document this scene properly.”
With this exercise, instructors simulated a fire used to cover up a homicide.
“Here in Iraq, similar to this fire tower, the building materials are non-combustible. So we are hoping that the fuel load in the room will take it to the right temperatures where everything will catch on fire,” Schenken said.
After battling the blaze, the students used their newly acquired skills to determine the cause of the fire.
“There are also a few little things in there that they will catch that are indicators of a set fire,” Schenken said.
The instructors consider the unique challenges that Iraqi firefighters face when planning the training exercises.
“In Iraq, the building construction is much different from what it is in the United States,” Schenken said.
ATF agents have worked in Iraq since 2004 with a primary focus on explosives training.
“We started arson investigation training a week ago. It took some time to set it up, but it is something that we have wanted to do,” said Mark Bergstresser, ATF Agent.
The firemen, from all the districts of Iraq, are selected specifically to attend this course.
“They are doing great during this course, they are picking it up, they are all firemen, and they have been firemen for years, so they get it,” Bergstresser said.
The first class graduated 15 students June 15, 2011.
Bergstresser said the firemen are going to go back to their districts after completion of the course to spread the knowledge that they received here to other members of their teams.