Global Leaders in Fire Investigation®


2020 IAAI Milestone Members
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2020 Award Winners

Outstanding Chapter Publication – NY Chapter 23

The Firescene, Edward Lachenauer, Editor

James L. Smith Outstanding Chapter of the Year – UK-AFI Chapter 67

Deon Webber, President

Awards of Recognition

John C. Kernan, Upper Makefield Township - Chief Fire Marshal, Pennsylvania
This individual has been an active member of the International Association of Arson Investigators for almost 30+ years. In the past three years, he has expanded his expertise in the private sector. He currently serves on the NFPA #1033 Technical Committee, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator as an Enforcer. He is a mentor to many other investigators and fire professionals. He recently took an active part in the planning and initiation of the Kuwait Fire Science Center. He was awarded the Kuwait Humanitarian Award for services rendered over the years. His commitment to ongoing professional 'origin and cause' training / certification is the benchmark of his career. He has mentored many younger fire investigators, always stressing the IAAI certifications process. His dedication to fire safety and prevention has impacted all levels of his community. He has educated local nursery schools and almost every home in his township. John's Fire Prevention Week programs and activities run 365 days a year through all seasons.

Mark Reibenspies, Wichita Fire Department, Kansas
As a member of the Wichita Fire Department – Fire Investigation Unit (WFD-FIU) for over 14 years, this individual has a long history of grinding out the work needed to get answers for victims. In 2019, his efforts resulted in solving eight arson cases, leading to 10 individuals being charged in district court. This outstanding work accounted for a majority of the arrests for the WFD-FIU. It helped the unit achieve a 33% clearance rate for the year.

One case of note involved a hotel fire in south Wichita in February of 2019. Fire crews arrived on scene to find fire damage in one room of the hotel, with the sprinkler system working to control the fire. The occupant of the room jumped from the third-floor window, was treated for injuries by responders, and transported to a local hospital. During his scene investigation, this investigator noted some irregularities, including bath towels wrapped around the sprinkler head, apparently in an attempt to hamper the effectiveness of the system.

The investigator determined the fire was intentionally set, involving bedding and the mattress. In the course of his investigation, he interviewed the occupant of the room and was able to obtain a confession. The suspect was charged and subsequently found guilty of Aggravated Arson. This incident placed the lives of over 30 other occupants in danger and caused over $125,000 in damage.

The investigator completed outstanding overall work in the field of fire investigation and had incredible results over the last year.

George H. Parker Distinguished Service Award

Chris Lopez, Fire Marshal, Bexar County, Texas
This individual has championed fire investigator health and safety throughout his career. Since taking office as the fire marshal in his county, he has implemented many unique and innovative policies and initiatives that had never been done by the agency. This individual is a job-related cancer survivor and knows first-hand the value of these protective measures. He has purchased personal protective equipment, implemented a comprehensive physical training and wellness program, and implemented a "clean cab" policy to minimize the threat associated with carcinogens from the scene. He overcame the bureaucratic push back, and now the fire investigators have been afforded a higher margin of health and safety towards a long and productive career.

Guy E. "Sandy" Burnette Outstanding Accomplishment Awards

Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Arson Task Force - UK
A study undertaken by the UK Government's Department for Communities and Local Government in 2004 established that nationally only 9% of arson offenses committed resulted in an arrest, and only 3% of offenses resulted in a conviction.

The reason for this was established as:

There was little or no exchange of intelligence and statistical data between the agencies involved in the investigation of Arson.

First responders from the Police & Fire Service lacked even basic knowledge about the potential the scene represented.

Lack of knowledge led to poor evidence gathering by Investigative teams. Evidence was being poorly presented at court.

In 2007 Hampshire Constabulary and Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service came together to establish the county's Arson Task Force. The primary objective was to achieve a noticeable improvement in the arrest, detection and conviction rates of arson offenders by driving the initial investigation and providing specialist support and guidance to fire and police colleagues involved in the forensic and criminal investigation of deliberate and serious fires across the county.

The current outcomes resulted in:

Significant end to end improvements in the investigative process. Greater understanding of each agency has significantly improved mutual support. Learning from each other has produced tangible service delivery improvements. Hi-visibility multi-agency response to arson crime provides deterrent and assurance. The partnership works 'The results speak for themselves'

The arrest rate is an impressive 10 times higher than the national average, and the conviction rate is 8 times higher.

2615 Arsonists removed from the Communities.

West Midlands Fire Service – UK
This year the West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) Fire Investigation and Prevention Section (FIPS) celebrates its 36th anniversary. They were the first dedicated fire investigation team in the United Kingdom.

They provide a 24-hour service, 365 days/year service that includes an accelerant canine.

Over the 36 years, they have investigated over 12,700 incidents to a very high standard. They have diversified to provide a whole raft of other activities providing significant value for money to WMFS and partner agencies.

They continually provide intelligence lead data to influence 'Response' policies and procedures to drive effective change management strategies. This, along with targeted prevention-based activities for both Arson and Accidental Fires, ensures FIPS is a true cross-cutting section within the brigade, effectively contributing to Prevention, Protection, and Response in the pursuit of excellence.

Key areas of work include:
  • Specialist training provision to Universities, Police Forensic Scene Investigators, Coroners Officers, and WMFS personnel, providing excellent value for money.
  • Provision of incident intelligence to target prevention-based activities for Arson & Anti-Social Behavior and accidental fires across the brigade.
  • Development and maintenance of a faulty white goods data base to work in partnership with manufacturers, for possible recalls.
  • Specialist research into issues such as sky lanterns following our largest fire in the West Midlands History 'Jayplas' e-cigarettes and ethanol fuels.
  • Investigations into serious crimes in collaboration with WMP and Staffordshire Police for the provision of detailed and accurate evidence, resulting in the conviction of a significant number of murderers and arsonists. Their contributions being recognized with Chief Police Officers Commendations for valuable contributions to high profile cases.
  • Research into self-immolation leading to national interest from other Fire and Rescue Services and the development of close working relationships with the national burns centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The Fire Investigation and Prevention Section are great ambassadors for West Midlands Fire Service. They are held in high esteem across several sectors locally, regionally, and nationally. They have made outstanding contributions to reduce deaths and injury, produce significant cost saving to the communities of West Midlands, driving change, and improving the lives of members of the community through effective research and investigation, provision of evidence, and targeted prevention-based activities, making West Midlands Safer.

2020 IAAI Investigators of the Year

Scott Bennett with FEC

Mark Schockman with Fire Science Investigations

April 5, 2018, there was a house fire. Two children, eight and six years old, were in the house with their father. A fire was started in the gas fireplace at 4:30 that evening. That is the exact moment when their lives spiraled out of control and tore the family apart. No more than five minutes had gone by after starting the fire in the fireplace, they had no idea a fire was building up in our chimney. Smoke started coming through the glass of the back door. The dad stepped outside the back and saw smoke was coming from our very own chimney, he panicked and rushed back in to get the children and dogs and left, dialed 911 at exactly 4:37. He naively turned on the water from the front of the house and sprayed the fire as best he could until we realized the gas was still on and might explode. The fire grew, but never entered the house proper. This was a chimney fire that was soon under control by the fire department, and everyone was out of the house. By 6:30 that evening, the fire department had completed their work and left. The house was not secured, and they were able to return to the home. There was water damage from the fire department extinguishing the fire, along with smoke damage to the house. There was no fire damage inside the home, so it appeared we would be able to salvage the important things from the home. They stayed in the house overnight. No police or fire officials came back to the house that evening or the following day. The house was boarded up, and in fact, there was a dusting of snow that night and no heat in the home. The insurance company provided immediate and longtime lodging funds and began clean-up and mitigation. The contractors started demolition of the house, and they removed everything in the home, from drywall to floors, insulation, cabinets, and left the house an empty shell. A month later, the insurance company realized they forgot to complete an origin and cause investigation. They sent an investigator out. The investigator removed the fireplace and completed his reports that were then forwarded to the local public sector agencies. The public sector did not complete a formal origin and cause investigation. In the year following the fire, we were introduced to the art and science of fire investigation. In that period, we met many people. We were presented several reports, saying our simple chimney fire was an incendiary fire, accusing the father as an arsonist. He was told repeatedly that the gas line in my home was cut with a hacksaw blade. He lost his home, job, career, children, and his innocence.

Science was not a factor in his determination of cause and origin of the fire at his home. No use of the formal 921 regulations was followed, and because of the opinion of one man, his life is left in shattered pieces. Along the way, two other gentlemen entered the investigation, leaving no doubt that the fire was accidental while helping to restore the innocence that was intentionally taken from him. Science was the ultimate judge of my innocence.

He agreed to meet the local officials at the local municipal building, where he was immediately told that the fire at my home was very specifically caused by the gas line being cut with a hacksaw blade. He answered all the questions asked by these officials. After 45 minutes of questioning, he was informed that I was being indicted on Aggravated Arson as well as child endangerment charges.

Six months had gone by, facing eviction from my insurance provided housing, because the insurance company decided to stop payment on the policy. A private investigator agreed to take a look at the case, the evidence, and the reports we received as discovery from my felony arson charges. Even before we met in person, he had agreed to take a look, knowing that I was not able to pay him for his time. His conclusion led to the assignment of another fire investigator to conduct an independent origin and cause investigation. He spent the proceeding nine months orchestrating the gathering and official investigation of my house fire. A cause and origin investigation was completed as well as securing a Metallurgical expert, electrical and mechanical expert to review my case. Being homeless, he moved back to the house with his dogs. We survived there in the cold with limited heat from propane tanks and an extension cord run from the neighbors' front walkway. He was officially homeless and worse yet; I was facing eviction from my home for auction. The conclusion of the Metallurgical report stated that there was "significant corrosion and erosion at the failed end of the pipe." Additional investigative findings noted that "damage to the pipe resulted in no meaningful or contributive role to any aspect of causation or contributive role to the loss." The classification for the fire is determined to be "Accidental." The pipe, when examined under lab conditions, EXHIBITS ABSOLUTELY NO INDICATION of mechanical cutting, striation, or tool markings. These findings were submitted to the prosecutor in April of 2019.

The body of work completed by these two private investigators was ultimately what set him free from the level two felony charges. Science and perseverance by the investigators led to the dismissal of all charges, expungement of the case, and ultimately, he gained his freedom.

Photo Awards
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Honorable Mention

Adam Stanley, Johnston County Emergency Services

Second Place

Carl Finocchiaro, Spectrum Forensics, LLC

First Place

Paul Bishoff, Overland Park Fire Department


Honorable Mention

Doug Pierre, Deputy State Fire Marshal, Region 2, Grand Forks, North Dakota

Second Place

Bobby Senn, New York Fire Department

First Place

Douglas J. Carpenter, Combustion, Science & Engineering Inc.

Presidential Awards of Appreciation – President Barry M. Grimm


The officers and members of the International Association of Arson Investigators are grateful and fully support our brothers and sisters who bravely and proudly serve as members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

National Response Teams & Personnel
ATF-CFIs, Team Leaders, Instructors & K9 Handlers
ATF Fire Research Laboratory

The IAAI is proud to be a strategic partner with the ATF in sharing research, training, and education initiatives for the betterment of the science of fire investigation.

Gary Thorstenson

In Appreciation for his Unselfish Efforts And Meritorious Contribution to the IAAI Significantly Fostering the Promotion of Training and Education

I personally know you were a wonderful soldier.
I would add a "great" training manager.
Thank you for your service to your country and IAAI.

Awards Committee Chair-Rose Rozmiarek

Awards Nomination Form

Deadline February 15th of each year.

Email: if you have any questions.

The Awards Committee is seeking nominations for the awards listed below, which customarily are presented at the annual meeting by the Association.

Life Membership Award
The Life Membership Award may be conferred upon an active member in good standing for a period of 10 years and one who has rendered distinctive service to the Association and its purposes for a minimum of five years. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Distinguished Service Award (George H. Parker Award)
The Distinguished Service Award is given to individuals who are active members of the IAAI and who have shown outstanding service, effort and direction to the purposes and objectives of the Association. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Outstanding Chapter Award (James L. Smith Award)
The Committee will choose recipients of this award after a thorough study of the activities of each Chapter throughout the year, including goals suggested by the President of the Association. In addition, the annual report submitted by the Chairman of the Chapter Committee will be studied for additional information. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Outstanding Chapter Publication
The Outstanding Chapter Publication Award is given for outstanding newsletter or magazine publications which disseminates knowledge, education and information to the chapter/international members and others. This award will be chosen by the Committee after a review of nominees from the chapters or members. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Outstanding Accomplishment Award (Guy E. "Sandy" Burnette Award)
The Outstanding Accomplishment Award is presented to municipalities, agencies (law enforcement or private) and companies which have developed successful programs which help to reduce the incidence of arson by implementing and achieving a progressive, innovative and successful program. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Award of Recognition
The Award of Recognition may be given to any individual or organization for service rendered to the Association and its purposes. (Limited to two recipients annually.)

Investigator of the Year Award
Investigator of the Year Award is given to an individual who has shown outstanding achievement through the use of professional expertise in both the criminal and civil fields of arson control. The recipient shall not be a current officer or member of the Board of Directors, nor shall the recipient be a member of the Awards Committee. There shall be one annual Investigator of the Year.

In addition to the aforementioned awards, the Association presents Certificates of Appreciation annually to selected individuals who have provided or performed services considered to be in the best interest of the Association.

Photography Competition

Tommy Sipsy, Photo Committee Chair

Awards will be given in the categories of Arson and Accidental Fire Photography. First and Second place and Honorable Mention awards are presented for each category. Photos will be judged on the quality and content of the cause represented, technique and composition of how well it depicts its category. In addition, photographs will be published in the Fire & Arson Investigator journal. First place award winners may not enter the same category for two years.

Rules for the Annual IAAI Photo Competition
  1. The photographic award competition is open only to members in good standing of the IAAI.
  2. All photos entered must be the work of the person entering and must have been taken within the preceding 48 months.
  3. There are two categories for competition: Category 1 - Arson Photos; Category 2 - Accidental Photos (Maximum of one submission in each category per entrant.)
  4. Photos must be in color.
  5. Photos must be digital and shot at 3 to 8 mega pixels and in JPG Format. If shot by 35mm, photos must scanned to digital format at minimum 300 dpi. No marks of any kind may be placed on the photograph. A designation of appropriate category and a brief explanation of the subject of the photograph, including type of structure or item, must accompany each photograph submitted and reference the digital number of the photograph. Two supporting photographs may be submitted to clarify the actual photograph being submitted. The actual photo being submitted for consideration must be designated. (NO TRAINING PHOTOS!)
  6. The following information must be placed with the description for each photo submitted: name, mailing address, telephone number, department or company name, date photo was taken, location of photo scene, number sequence of each photo submitted by digital number as described in Rule 5 and current email address.
  7. All photo entries become the property of the IAAI and will not be returned.
  8. Any entry not complying with these rules will be eliminated.
  9. All photos must be submitted via email to no later than February 15th of each year.
Deadline February 15th of each year.