Jeffrey Berino Published in Claims Management Magazine

Arvada, Colorado (April 10, 2013) – Jeffrey Berino, Senior Fire Investigator, B.S., CFEI, CCFI, Pie Consulting & Engineering was recently published in the January 2013 issue of Claims Management Magazine in an article entitled Tame the Flames – Cutting Edge Management Techniques for Wildfire Investigations. Berino lends his wildfire investigation expertise and predicts a possible repeat of 2012; a record year for wildfire devastation in the U.S.

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Article Summary
The intensity and frequency of wildfires in the United States is amplifying. With another drought year forecasted, 2013 may again create a forceful wildfire season. Insurance claims managers, fire agencies, and homeowners alike are assuming very active roles in the areas of fire mitigation and wildfire suppression. Effective utilization of the latest technology in wildfire investigation is taking center stage along with field intelligence focused on determining the cause and not the extent of wildfires. Fire agencies claim too much attention on the extent of the fire will often obscure and complicate the search for the origin and cause.

Wildfire Stats

  • U.S. incurred nearly 67,315 wildfires in 2012 consuming more than 9.2 million acres
  • More than 740,000 residences in the U.S. with an estimated value of more than $136 billion are at a high or very high risk of substantial damage from wildfires.

Utilization of Technology
Wildfire investigation can be propelled with the use of modern technologies such as:

  • Remote automated weather station (RAWS) data can be used to predict wildfire danger
  • Computer Fire Modeling to demonstrate the speed and direction in which a fire can spread
  • Programs such as Behave, Behave Plus, and FARSITE enable users to add topographic factors, wind conditions, fuel packages, and fuel moisture, then factor them into the modeling data to explain behavior patterns
  • Light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology
  • GPS devices allow an investigator to walk the perimeter of the general area(s) of origin and overlay them onto a mapping program such as Google Earth.
  • LIDAR technology offers a 3-D approach to depict critical dimensions and measurements.

I’ve often been asked if there is any gratification in my wildfire investigation career, and I have to say that some aspects are particularly rewarding. One is being able to pinpoint the area where the burn started, and even more importantly, the cause of the fire. That is especially significant for future reference in helping to educate all of us to keep from replicating these types of incidences. Hopefully, we can use our findings as tools of prevention to avoid future disasters.” – Jeffrey Berino, Expert Wildfire Investigator.

Field Intelligence
Utilization of a systematic methodology for field examination is critical for the organizational and analytical process in the physical sciences to prove or disprove an investigator’s hypothesis as to cause. A specific area of origin is usually no smaller than five feet by five feet. During site examination, the investigator not only needs to scientifically rule out many potential causes but also locate the exact source and prove that it caused the fire.

Once a scene has been determined to be safe for examination, the investigator should get an overview of the general area and the shape of the wildfire, particularly near the heel or base of the fire. A clockwise and counter-clockwise general search is conducted to identify general fire spread directions by examination of macro fire indicators and identification of the advancing fire area. Unlike structure fires, wildfire investigation should move from areas of the most damage to the areas of least damage because an advancing fire maintains a progression associated with the head or the front of the fire.” – Jeffrey Berino, Expert Wildfire Investigator.

Wildfire Claim Examination Tips:

  • Retain a specialized wildfire investigator; there are vast differences in conducting a wildland fire investigation compared to a structural fire.
  • Utilize a team approach; analysis of external factors such as multiple ignitions, first-responder actions, building code issues, weather influences, code compliance, and potential spoliation are important constituents that can be provided by a team of specialists.
  • Value of a “cold case.” A cold case may be several months old but there can still be enough evidence available to help attorneys and adjusters produce a substantial argument or defense. Pattern analysis and macro indicators on some fuel types can be present for several months after a wildfire.
  • Read the entire article.

jeffAbout Jeffrey Berino:
Jeffrey Berino, CCFI, CFEI, BS, is a senior fire investigator with Pie Consulting &Engineering and a career deputy chief with the Lake Dillon Fire District in Colorado. He has 33 years of experience in investigating and educating insurance groups on wildfires, is frequently deployed to manage and combat large, campaign-style burns, and is court certified as an expert in wildfire investigations. He has been a CLM Fellow since 2012 and can be reached at jeff.berino@gmail.com.


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