125 Years of Service and Protection - The Los Angeles Fire Department - (Page 49)
LAFD 125 Years
Arson Investigators Rick Price and Bill Thost at the scene of a ﬁre. The Arson Investigation Section currently performs investigative duties and, since 2004, has an active role in counterterrorism and tactical planning.
The current LAFD Arson Investigation Section shares the responsibility of ﬁre investigation with the Bureau of Emergency Services. This responsibility is granted under authority of the Los Angeles City Charter. The Arson Investigation Section currently comprises 21 uniformed members and four civilian members. All special-duty arson investigators share on-call duty responsibilities. The on-call investigators augment the platoon-duty investigators at scenes involving ﬁre fatalities, house of worship ﬁres, and all ﬁre-related domestic terrorist incidents. The newest member to join the Arson Investigation Section rank was Buster, an accelerant detection canine, who was trained by the ATF. Buster and his handler, investigator Frank Oglesby, are on call 24 hours a day. The team has assisted local and federal agencies throughout the country as members of the National Response Team. The Accelerant Detective K-9 Program has successfully aided in the prosecution of suspects in several signiﬁcant ﬁres. Buster’s keen senses have many times outperformed modern-day technical equipment. The Arson Investigation Section is currently participating in three arson task forces. The LAFD/ATF Arson Task Force has been in effect since Nov. 1, 1984. This task force was formed to combat arson ﬁres related to insurance fraud, organized crime, and serial arson. One example of the cases investigated by this task force involved one of the most proliﬁc serial arsonists in United States history: John Orr, a Glendale Fire Department captain. This individual was identiﬁed, investigated, arrested, and successfully prosecuted by the LAFD/ATF Arson Task Force.
The Los Angeles House of Worship Arson Task Force was formed in June 1996 by then-Battalion Chief Terrance Manning. This task force is composed of members from the LAFD Arson Investigation Section, LAPD Criminal Conspiracy Section, ATF, and FBI. The task force investigates all arson and haterelated ﬁres that involve houses of worship within the City of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Arson Terrorism Work Group is the latest task force in which the Arson Investigation Section has been participating, along with the LAPD Anti-Terrorism Division, ATF, and FBI. The task force was developed following the tragic Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and investigates all arson incidents related to homeland security, domestic terrorism, and ecoterrorism. In addition to performing investigative duties, the Arson Investigation Section is responsible for processing and supplying ﬁre reports to requesting parties. The section receives approximately 500 requests for ﬁre reports per month (at a nominal fee). The Arson Investigation Section is also the subpoena-processing center for the Fire Department. Approximately 250 to 400 subpoenas are processed monthly for Department members. In 2004, the LAFD Arson Investigation Section expanded to include an active role in counterterrorism and tactical planning. The section has now been designated as the Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section. The objective of these enhancements is to allow the Arson Investigation Section to effectively contribute to the LAFD’s ability to reduce the impact of a local event on lives and on the local economy. This expanded role has also created the new position of the terrorism liaison ofﬁcer (TLO). The objective of the TLO Program is to develop and maintain efﬁcient channels of communication between local health, ﬁre, and police departments and the Terrorism Early Warning Group (TEW) relative to terrorism threats and vulnerabilities. Arson is a leading cause of fire deaths in the United States and is also a leading cause of dollar loss from fire. Of the hundreds of thousands of arson fires that occur per year, only a relatively small percentage of arson cases are closed by arrest. Interestingly, juveniles account for many of the arson arrests that are made. Training is a vital part of the job. The members of the Arson/ Counter-Terrorism Section are required to qualify with their duty weapon as well as take advanced tactical training. The Los Angeles Police Department administers the training and qualiﬁcations. Arson investigators keep their skills up by attending several accredited courses every year. With the number of ﬁres increasing on an annual basis and the added responsibilities of the Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section, the LAFD will continue to focus concentrated efforts aimed at combating this heinous crime.
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