Building fires expert witnesses are knowledgeable in the area of fire cause and origin and are qualified to provide critical analysis of evidence to determine what led to a fire. They examine fire patterns, witness statements, aerial photography, and the amount of damage to determine the ignition source.
In the news, a deadly fire claimed the lives of 36 people during an Oakland warehouse party on December 2, 2016. The victims were attendees at an artists’ collective function and all died of smoke inhalation. While fire officials do not know the origin or the cause of the blaze as of yet, the Alameda County District has brought in a criminal investigations team. Charges could range from involuntary manslaughter to murder.
Derick Ion Almena leased the building from owner Chor Ng and sublet spaces to create makeshift apartments and studios. Almena managed the artists’ collective and lived in the warehouse with his family. The building was not zoned for residential use. People who visited the warehouse, nicknamed The Ghost Ship, say the interior had poorly installed electrical wires and propane tanks used for heating. Wooden pallets were used as partitions and a ramshackle staircase. The 10,000 square foot building had only two exits. The Friday night dance party required a permit which was not procured. The devastating conflagration is the deadliest structure fire in California since the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.
Fire investigation experts examine evidence to determine what led to a fire. These professionals determine the source of ignition and then analyze the possible cause, be it natural, accidental, incendiary, or undetermined. Building fires expert witnesses are knowledgeable on building codes and consult on whether construction projects and existing buildings are in compliance with fire codes. They also consult on whether all necessary evidence has been collected and has undergone proper laboratory analyses. Hiring a highly qualified fire investigation expert witness is essential in a fire related lawsuit.