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Battalion Chief Greg Gates
IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Section


ATF and Indianapolis Police, Fire Departments Team Up

Task Force Will Enhance Resources and Coordination

 Indianapolis - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Public Safety’s divisions Indianapolis Fire Investigations Section (IFIS) and Indianapolis Police (IMPD) have formed a task force focused on investigating fire and explosive incidents.   The task force formalizes the longstanding partnership of ATF and IFIS and provides additional federal resources and potential funding to IFIS.  ATF and IFIS recognize the benefit of combining resources, intelligence and personnel to better serve the expanding Indianapolis Metropolitan area.

 ATF resources include an Indianapolis based Special Agent with expertise in fire investigations. This Special Agent Certified Fire Investigator possesses many years of fire investigation experience and serves on the elite ATF National Response Team which responds to major fire and explosives incidents throughout the nation.  Additionally, an Indianapolis based Special Agent Certified Explosives Specialists, Explosives Enforcement Officer and a Special Agent Certified Explosives Specialist K-9 handler support the task force with their expertise in explosives, explosives incidents, and post blast scene investigation.

 The IFIS is comprised of personnel from both the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), the Indianapolis Fire Investigations Section is recognized as one of the premier Fire Investigation Sections in the United States.  IFD and IMPD each have assigned five members to the team.  The members working in teams are cross trained in fire and police disciplines. Cross training efficiency has enabled the section to possess one of the highest arson clearance rates in the country.   During 2010 the section has made 49 arrests and is on par with exceeding the 67 arson arrests in 2009.  The IFIS closed case rate is 1.5 times the national average.

 “ATF is honored to join forces with the Indianapolis Fire Investigations Section.  I expect past investigative successes, such as the Daniel Annee arson for hire case, will continue and that the task force will be a force multiplier working for a safe and secure community,” said Chris Sadowski, Special Agent in Charge, ATF, Columbus Field Division

The partnership between ATF, IMPD and IFD provides a successful national model demonstrating the importance of public safety partnerships in keeping our communities safe,” said Public Safety Director Frank G. Straub.

 “We are proud of the work our Fire Investigations Section continues to do each and every day. The IFD/IMPD partnership we have, has given our section the opportunity for its many successes. We look forward to our working relationship with the ATF and the expertise and experience they will bring to our program. We appreciate the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of what could be the national model for arson sections across the country,” said Chief Brian Sanford, Indianapolis Fire Department.

 The ATF/IFIS task force will enhance and further investigations achieving even greater success by multiplying manpower and resources. The task force will continue to utilize the latest investigative methods including Touch DNA, incident mapping, suspect tracking and proactive investigations.

    Fire Investigation (Arson)

         The Fire Investigation Division has two distinct parts, the Fire Investigations Unit and the Firestop Program.
    • Arson Investigation – The IFD/IMPD Arson Investigation Unit is unique as a combined police IMPD/IFD unit.  There are seven teams consisting of a police detective and fire investigator.  Each individual is cross-trained in the other’s discipline.  The fire investigator has full police powers and the police detective is fully trained in origin and cause of fire determination.  The unit has an accelerant detection canine that is available to all Marion County Fire Departments and the Arson Task Force (ATF).  Once a fire has been determined to be of suspicious origin, the unit responds to the fire scene to begin the investigation.  The police officer gathers information about witnesses and conducts interviews on the scene.  The firefighter inspects the scene and attempts to make a determination about the cause of the fire.  The investigators then pool the information that they have gathered and make a joint determination about whether the fire was intentionally set and whether it should be referred to the prosecutor’s office.  The investigators then follow the case in team mode, conducting follow-up interviews and investigations and, if necessary, testifying in court.  During the follow-up investigation, the IFD member of the team may recreate the scene to determine how the fire was set and how it spread.

    • Firestop Program- If firefighters at an emergency scene suspect that a fire has been set by a juvenile, they notify the Fire Investigations Unit, which will dispatch a team to investigate on behalf of the IFD Firestop Program, a program which counsels young fire starters.  If the investigating team determines that a juvenile has started the fire, then that child is referred to the Firestop Program for counseling.  The Firestop Coordinator, a civilian employee, interviews and counsels all juveniles referred from age two to eighteen.  Firestop has had a dramatic effect in reducing the damage done by children who set fires.  Juvenile fire setters are referred to the Firestop Program from various other sources such as schools (referred by IPS Officials), Juvenile Court as part of probation, concerned parents or caregivers, Child Protective Services, mental health professionals, and other agencies that are working with identified young fire setters.