Last year, 14 percent of the total 95 investigated fires were intentionally set, according to the department. Fire Inspector
"Since most everything gets burned up in a fire, it's very difficult in some cases to rule out every possible cause," Ziph said.
In 2013, of the 68 investigated fires, 19 percent were incendiary. The following year, the fire investigations rose to 99 with 8 percent being incendiary, according to the department's statistics.
Ziph said inspectors utilize the scientific method and sometimes it could take days to conclude an investigation based on the size of the fire scene. They determine the origin by investigating the area that is least burned and work toward the areas that are most burned.
"Unfortunately, we have to rule out every possible cause that could have started a fire and work our way down to ruling out the most obvious, working down to the ones that are most difficult to prove," Ziph said.
Henrichson said when they label a fire undetermined, it does not mean they don't know where it started.
"There is just more than one possibility in the area and we couldn't pick between the two possiblities," Henrichson said.
In 2015, there were 36 undetermined fires and more than
Ziph said labeling a fire undetermined is not a bad thing. He said up until the 1990s, fire investigations were based on myth and old wives tales.
"After the 1990s, the fire service came along and said it's better for 100 guilty people to go free than one innocent person to be jailed, so we have to rule out every possible cause," Ziph said.
Ziph said the findings are turned over to the
Henrichson said in the past four years, electrical shorts contributed to a majority of the unintentional fires. He said wiring in older homes was not designed to accommodate modern appliances and electronics.
"Everyone has their computer, DVD player,
Henrichson said this year there have been 17 intentional fires. For more information on fire prevention or a free fire inspection, visit stjoemo.info.
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