Colwood assistant fire chief John Cassidy investigates fires

Seeking that first spark: Colwood assistant chief investigates fires

Armed with a shovel, a camera and a hypothesis, John Cassidy searches for clues among fire wreckage

Armed with a shovel, a camera and a hypothesis, John Cassidy searches for clues among fire wreckage.

The Colwood fire investigator has 20 years of experience and often begins the hunt as the fire still burns.

During his career Cassidy has attended about 9,000 calls, roughly 1,500 of them fires. He has investigated blazes in dumpsters, tree stumps, fields, vehicles and homes.

“Anything that burns we have to investigate,” said the 46-year-old.

Discovering the cause is a bit different from other investigations.

“Police investigations of a serious crime or assault leaves behind evidence like DNA or blood. But for us the whole process of a fire is destroying everything,” explained the Colwood assistant fire chief.

A sleuth on scene, Cassidy has a keen eye for clues such as uneven charring of wood or smoke and heat patterns. He assesses variables including weather and barometric pressure that could impact a fire. More often than not he eliminates potential causes, leading him to the initial spark.

“The whole process is narrowing things down,” Cassidy said. He first searches for the area of origin and then a point of origin.

Sometimes a giant V pattern will pinpoint the location, the pattern marked out in soot and heat damage.

Every fire is different, but often the area with the most damage is where it started, he said. “Every fire teaches you something different.”

A few years ago Cassidy attended a fire that started in a bed. Even through he never found the cigarette butt, the resident’s burned fingers provided the evidence.

 

“A lot of fire investigators start out helping a fire investigator mucking around at a fire scene,” he said. “I helped sift through all the fire debris and looked for clues.”

 

 

Just Posted

Therapeutic recovery centre likely to open in the fall

Former Choices facility in View Royal to be transformed

Celebrate summer solstice at Ford Rodd Hill in Colwood

Activites for everyone while watching the sun set

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

Fastball teams have strong showing at tourney

Two U19C and U16C teams return with gold, silver medals

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

50 new fires sparked in B.C. after lightning strikes across province

Similar conditions seen at the beginning of 2017 wildfire season

B.C. woman graduates high school at age 92

Nanaimo’s Joan Deebank the oldest high school graduate ever in B.C., as far as ministry can confirm

B.C. Appeal Court rules lottery winner must be paid back $600,000 loan

Enone Rosas won $4.1 million in a lottery in 2007 and loaned a portion to a friend

B.C. man surprised after used needle falls from sky

A Vernon resident said a syringe fell out of the sky and landed at his feet

Liquor review finds issues with B.C. wholesale monopoly

Report calls for ‘conflict of interest’ in system to be fixed

Police look for driver of blue Jeep who may have helped at fatal crash

A 19-year-old girl was killed in a crash near Delta on June 2

Conservationists, industry react to fish farm provisions

New provincial regulations to take effect by 2022

B.C. ‘will be ready’ for marijuana legalization

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says some stores open by Oct. 17

Most Read