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Fire Investigations.


Fire incidents are unique in that they often destroy much of the physical evidence key to determining their cause(s). BEAR's certified fire investigators and engineers follow a systematic and scientific methodology to determine how and why a fire started and propagated.


Our fire experts have the knowledge required to conduct and manage complex fire investigations. Our engineers investigate chemical fires, electrical fires, structural fires, and explosions of all kinds. We understand the importance of a quality report that is easily understood whether dealing with fraud, fire cause, or subrogation. Our investigations are multidisciplinary; we draw upon expertise in fire science, engineering, and chemistry to find the cause, and we communicate our findings in a clear and concise manner that can be readily understood by non-technical individuals.

Our Services and Expertise:


Incident investigation and documentation

Cause, origin, and fire propagation analysis

Testing of ignition temperatures and combustible gases generated by fire

Thermal transient structural integrity evaluations

Creep failures resulting from high temperatures

Meet our Fire Safety Engineer: Joe Zicherman, PhD, SFPE

Joe Zicherman

Dr. Joe Zicherman studied fire science after a stint in polymers work an ICI subsidiary at UC Berkeley as a graduate student in the 1970's.  At that time, the UC Fire Research Group was conducting groundbreaking work on fire dynamics and materials fire research funded by the National Science Foundation and the Center for Fire Research.


After graduation, Joe founded IFT Inc. in Berkeley, which evolved into Fire Cause Analysis. He developed that company to its current status as a fire investigation leader through a series of structured efforts to enhance the limited scientific bases available for 1980's investigation technology into that which is now codified in NFPA 921.  As part of that work, Joe wrote and contributed sections on modeling and applying fire science to fire investigation in editions of the NFPA 921 Handbook that accompanied later revisions of the document.  That work has been part of a general practice working with fire safety projects including determining heat release profiles of complete rail vehicles, looking at fire risk issues affecting decision making and applying fire science principals to fire losses and property assessment.

origin and cause investigation

The initial investigation of a fire is referred to as an "Origin and Cause" investigation. The sooner it is performed after a fire, the more likely it is to obtain crucial evidences. Fire scene evidence is usually heavily damaged by the fire and easily damaged further by weather, scavengers and repairs. BEAR's fire investigators and engineers are available to probe for an origin and cause on site and perform a scene documentation using photography, videography, and laser scanning.

The image on the left shows the carrier box after an electrical fire deteriorates a medical imaging facility. Careful examination of the carrier box and inside of 2 inch diameter electrical cables revealed that the screws used to attach the conduit box panels eroded into the 12,000 volt cables, causing a short circuit to the ground and igniting the cable insulation. The green arrows in the picture on the left indicate wear damage that had not made it all the way through the insulation when the fire occured.

fuel testing

Fuel testing with a customized test system was used by BEAR engineers to prove that the destruction of a Boeing 747 by fire at the Miami airport was caused by a hydraulic fluid leak from a poorly maintained fuel truck and not by a leaking fuel jet. 


The video on the right is an animation produced at BEAR relates to the cause of fire of Boeing 747.

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