Investigator, Gatien, Ireland discussed on Conversations



How did you mom and dad get interested in fire and become far investigators while it was it was really interesting, actually because my my father point was working at a place called institute of technology in Kevin street, which is where I subsequently did my undergraduate degree, and he was in the chemistry department there. And he knew a lot of colleagues in police force just worked around the corner. So these socialist together one one of them had asked whether or not he'd be able to help in regards to an explanation about a fire, particularly how the fire might have started, and what might have caused it. And as a consequence of that piece of work. They started to do some casework primarily on the civil side almost exclusively on the civil side. So that's for insurance companies rather than for criminal cases. They just simply got called to do more. And more of that work. Started up a company. Those were around in Ireland mom and dad started. They were the only one. So they were exclusively the only Irish based pharmacist Gatien company for the civil courts on my mom was the only female far investigator in Arden for many many years. So so that's how they started these two lots and lots of casework it was a time back in those days when almost every fire because of the way which insurance companies would pay out almost every fire would be investigated. So there was a lot of work for them to do how much did, you know about they work, and what it entailed when you growing up. It was it's interesting because when my brother, and I were growing up signs was always discussed in the house. So it was always over the dinner table, though, would be conversations about their latest job that they had been looking at and what different physical evidence looked like and what it meant. And that sort of thing myself, my brother used to earn our pocket money by. Ticking photographs this was wet photography back in the day before digital commerce, wet wet photography sticking photographs that have been developed onto sheets of four paper to be incorporated into their reports. What photographs have follow photograph affiars the inside of the scenes, so what they would do is on the back of the photograph. They put a number. So that that would tell us the sequence it would go in and they put an arrow usually which which told us which way up should go. Because when you look at photographs that are almost narrowing into areas of interest within a fire scene. It's actually quite hard to tell which way they are because you're looking at black detail on a black background. So it's quite difficult contextualising. So they would still allow Mr. what direction it should go in and. My brother, and I would get five Pence photograph it went up to ten Pence from graph as inflation kicked him. And that's what we would do for for was great. Do you? Remember what you thought about those images with either disturbing stole? No. If there was ever a fire that involved any sort of injury or fatality than that would wouldn't be investigated initially as a civil case, it would be it would go into the criminal side of things. So no, these were just lots of pictures of Burt black stuff, but it was for us. It was it was it was a way to earn a few quid back in those days told us the value of of money. But it was it meant we were exposed to as opposed the realism of how science can actually be made useful in a very very tangible sense. There were other occasions when MoMA dot would do what we call now at hawk experiments. So they were do. An experiment test particular hypothesis, but do it outside of controllable rotary circumstance our scenario, and I I don't remember this myself. But I remember my mother telling me about it that in one case, the potential ignition scenario walls, you know, talent of toilet rolls that were all together. And that was it was in there that that's where the fire had started. And so she tells the story of my dad getting one of these bundles of toilet rolls and putting it on the kitchen table type give it a go and put IDO cigarette. Enter something into something to to get it going, and they sat there and watched it for a while. And as it started to produce a fair bit of smoke my own set. Gene has now which she did, and it sort of burst into flames out in the backyard. So lessons learned. That's experiment. Yes. Please. Don't set your own house on far. It was always a bit of a giggle when they moved into she lives in a lovely old farmhouse now when they moved into that farmers initially back must be thirty years ago. Now, getting fire insurance was will always going to be an interesting one. So take admit what they did on those. Yes. Yes. But it's, you know, farthest patients very small industry, so in Arlington particular back, then everybody knew everybody and so woman Daba well known by the loss assessors loss adjusters from the insurance company. It's hard to imagine a sort of more appropriate way for far investigated to be brought up then, you know, at the very knee of the first far investigators in in their home country. Did you always wanna pursue this sort of job yourself goodness? No, not at all. It's people always rebel against their. Parents do don't they in? So I didn't want to be an academic, which I currently am. And I didn't want to be far investigator, which I also do in terms of casework I wanted to be archaeologist actually. And if I couldn't be archaeologist I wanted to be a geologist on. I didn't get the points to get to university to do either of those things. So I ended up doing chemistry and mathematics. I ended up then subsequently doing appreciate chemistry on then job at the university of Strathclyde where. Air. I ended up teaching pharma's station starting to casework. So for your own study. What you started with was K Mistry's at the key scientific training and in what you do if for me. Yes, I was good at science. And my undergraduate degree was in majoring in chemistry and mathematics. And I was always good at math about and I like my much. So those two disciplines actually worked very closely together, though, some people might not put them together. And I know require my PHD students to do a fair bit of mathematics to understand statistics. Which they don't thank me for many of the time was something about fire itself that was seductive to you. That's a really good question. I'm not sure I would say seductive. I always found it. A fascinating with the way in which my parents one is a chemist what is Bodmer so from quite different disciplines, but the way in which they could see the physical evidence that they encountered in a fire scene and use that to track back the story of the fire and the narrative of the fire, and that's quite a challenging thing to do because of the level of destruction that you see in some of these scenes, but it was it was again making the science that you understand around head things burn or around. How things behave when you heat them up and making that into something useful that could be used almost as a tool to reveal the past. And that was really interesting way of. Really making science work in the real world. And so in that regard, it was it was a really interesting apllications thousand liking setting. Probably shouldn't say that. If afar has taken place in a building nave what stage. Do you get involved as an investigator? It depends much on what we're being asked to do. And who is asking us to do that. So if I'm involved or asked to get involved, by for example, in Scotland it will be the the crown office, which is the prosecutorial service, then it's a matter of working with the police an in particular what we would call a senior investigating officer and a crime scene managers their job to manage the experts going in and out of the scene, and we would sit with them. I we would devise a strategy for all of the different experts going in. So that we all know what each other is doing. We'll nobody needs are and we can work around and in combination with each other. So it's a very structured approach to undertaking that scene investigation and that would involve them from fire investigation perspective. Our job is to the initial partly. Try to determine where the fire started. And then what caused the fire in that area in that location? So it's called an origin Kohl's determination, but we're also interested in how the fire moved between moved into building or between buildings. So how'd he did that? When you go into a side. What you look for I often in fire scenes, it becomes it becomes relatively straightforward to locate the for example, in in a building the room of origin when I say relatively straightforward. That depends, of course on the level of damage, but usually there's one one room that might be damaged to a greater extent than others. And that's a good place to start when you observe them. What I would call physical evidence. So just the way in which the physicality of that room looked so what bits are blackened what bits are charred and what bits are melted. Then looking at those indicators can help you determine zone into an area where the fire much of burned for longer or where the farm auto burned hotter. Under various physical indicators that are leftover week-old burn patterns, so their patterns left on furnishings on the walls on the structure that allow you to then interpret those patterns to say this is the area where the far most likely started. So that's one aspect of it. There are a number of other aspects and things that you use was witness statements and fire investigators it's not uncommon for us to speak directly to witnesses. It's a bit unusual for forensic scientists to do that. But fire investigators we need to get first-hand knowledge from say the owner or from witnesses that sold the fire develop or from the fire service that put the fire out in order to gather information about what was it. Like when you saw it last bit prior to the fire went to the fire start. What did you see when you turned up to put the fire out and so on whereas other friends excited to tend not to get involved in that discussion process and would to the police, but for us it's really useful to to have that firsthand account. And that gives us an idea of what should have been there early swabbed should've been there in the building. Or at least what the people who were talking to said had been there. And when you do insurance cases, sometimes what they say wasn't really there at all. But it gives us a really good idea of what it is that we're walking walking into so you'd take witness accounts of witness information, we would also take into consideration. Some theoretical understanding of how things burn that set of theories called fire dynamics, which come from two disciplines when as far science. So the the science of combustion and the other is fire engineering. So what happens when you put a fire in a building? And what happens to that building? So those are two very well unrebutted established academics how much of that sort of science is available to the naked eye usually in in a site of a fair amount. So as a fire investigator the other area that we look at is actress ity and look at what the electrical circuitry can tell us in terms of false might have occurred because I can also guide us to areas where? The fire may have originated using a technique called arc fault mapping. So we need to be a little bit of jack-of-all-trades. We need to understand how things burn. So what's the nature of the combustion process? What does it require in order for different materials to get involved in the burning process? And so if I was going to burn a piece of wood than I need to heat it up I because the the solid stone burn the gases that you that you calls to come from the solids as you heated that burns. So I need to know that process really dumb question is that true for everything it's not the solids that bone. It's the guesses that caused correct? So if you burn petrol than petrol is at a temperature that's already producing gases because you can smell it. So what you're smelling of the chemicals that are coming off the liquid the liquid is made up of two hundred and fifty plus different chemicals. And it's those chemicals themselves when mixed with air are the things that ignite. If I want to burn a solid than I always have to gasify. I this is a principle of fi that is new for me. Thank you. So in order to get a flame burning you. I have to have a localized heat source somewhere nearby for long enough to cause this this what we call thermal decomposition. So the breaking up of the molecules within the material so that you have chemicals as gas you mix that what surgeon, and

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