Blaze Fire Investigation Blog

As an industry leader, BlazeFire fire investigators combine industry best practices with scientific knowledge, proven methodologies and experiential skill to deliver sound origin and cause opinions. We have years of experience finding the origin and cause of Structural, Vehicle, Marine and Hazardous Environment fires.

Industries we serve include Insurance, Legal and Manufacturing. Our consultations cover Large Loss Operations, Case Reviews and Code Interpretation.

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Why Greg Terlecky Works at Blaze Fire Investigation

Greg Terlecky’s path to fire investigation started out with firefighting. Although it wasn’t a career that he had originally envisioned for himself, when a friend talked him into taking the entry exam and giving it a try, he found that the work suited him very much. This is also what happened when he moved into investigative work with the Office of Fire Investigation (OFI) for the City of Chicago at the suggestion of a colleague. Now as an investigator for Blaze Fire, Greg is able to apply his knowledge and experience to accomplish the kind of forensic work that has moved his career to the next level.

Strong Culture of Cooperation

Just as he was introduced to firefighting by a friend, it was a colleague who introduced him to Blaze Fire Investigation. What drew Greg to Blaze was the strong culture of cooperation and the resources that the company has readily available because of the relationship with Anderson Engineering of New Prague. Greg knows that he can call on Forensic Electrical Engineers to validate his interpretation of evidence or to provide guidance when the case is particularly complex. Having strong administrative support is also a great asset to Greg when he’s in the field, allowing him to focus on what he does best.

Expertise and Team Work

Greg holds the C.F.E.I. and C.F.I. credential and is in the process of attaining certification for Marine Investigation. Continuing education and training is an integral part of the fire investigation profession, and Greg has found that Blaze Fire Investigation not only encourages but supports his goals to further his career with training and education. Greg appreciates the way that his individual career path is important to Blaze Fire Investigation owners, Erik Anderson and Beth Anderson, and he recognizes that their investment in him is a reflection of their overriding philosophy of using team work and expertise to get the best results for their clients.

“It’s very clear that everyone at Blaze and Anderson Engineering are there to help each other and pool resources,” says Greg. “There is a definite feeling of cooperation here and that translates into a better product for the client.”

Explore career opportunities at Blaze or learn more about our team.

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Why Liz Works at Blaze Fire Investigation

When you call the Blaze Fire Investigation office, Liz Rockwell will probably be the person who you talk to first. On the Blaze team for more than three years, Liz provides the administrative wheels that move client cases from in-take to final report. Administration and operations intertwine in Liz’s day. She may be dispatching investigators, finalizing reports, scheduling appointments, or managing the office bookkeeping. Her many skills and attention to detail allow her to provide clients with the best customer service while enabling the investigators to focus on what they do best.

Working at Blaze Fire Investigation provides Liz with many things other than a paycheck. She finds the industry to be very stimulating. “You never know what situation is next.” she says. While her position holds a great deal of responsibility, the owners grant her the autonomy and tools to get the job done in the manner that she feels is most efficient. Her opinions are heard and valued. As the mother of a young son, Liz appreciates the flexibility that the company gives her to adjust when the need arises.

The Chicago office where Liz works operates as a hub for the Blaze and Anderson Engineering teams that are spread out through several states. The company has worked hard to develop a culture that supports and enables all employees to serve clients with a team approach. While Liz is the administrative wheels, she knows she's not driving by herself.

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Why Dave Semrow Works at Blaze Fire Investigation

At the age of seventeen, Dave Semrow began his training to become a fire fighter.  At the age of eighteen as senior year of high school, and with the fire house across the street from school, Dave responded to fire calls from class.  When a run came in, he jumped to it whether he was at lunch or in the middle of Trigonometry class.  Upon graduation from high school, Dave obtained his certification and began his career in firefighting that would span more than 30 years and include everything from being on the firefighting front line, to haz mat, to heavy equipment operation to fire investigation.

Most of Dave’s career was with the City of Milwaukee which is where he also first became a fire investigator. With fire investigation, Dave enjoyed the way he could take years of experience as a fire fighter and apply this knowledge to fire investigation.  He found the work to be extremely interesting, challenging and he enjoyed the investigation process that required analytical and problem solving skills.

Not quite ready for retirement

When it was time for retirement in 2012, he wasn’t quite ready to just disappear from the fire service brotherhood.  He had spent a lot of time and effort acquiring the training and certifications to be a fire investigator, and wanted to keep working so he started to look for the right opportunity. As Dave contemplated where he might be able to keep working as a fire investigator, he steered away from the big national companies.  He did a few investigations with Terry Sheppard of Blaze Fire Investigation and recognized a good fit.

Company Structure Sets Investigators Up for Success

At Blaze, Dave immediately saw how the structure of the company sets the investigators up for success. The owners, Erik Anderson and Beth Anderson, are great to work for. He has always felt comfortable going to them for suggestions or input. Having consistent engineering resources at his fingertips is an incredible resource that is unique to Blaze Fire Investigation. Administrative support  from Liz Rockwell  and access to high quality lab analysis resources helps Dave to focus on fire investigation giving the clients excellent service.

Blaze Fire Invests in its Employees

Everyone who works at Blaze Fire Investigation, including Dave, appreciates how the company invests in them. Even though Dave is part-time, the training he needs to keep up his credentials or go into a specialty area is paid for by the company. He also receives a tool allowance and participation in an additional 401K – for when he really decides to retire and spend more time at the lake.

Learn more about Dave and the rest of the Blaze team.

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Why Steve Fabry Works at Blaze Fire Investigation

If you can imagine what 10 million gallons of water looks like after it has been sprayed on a fire in 15 below zero temperatures, then you can picture the fire scene where I first encountered Blaze Fire Investigation. The location was West Allis, Wisconsin where I was a police officer and detective. I was called to a fire scene on New Year’s Eve, along with others including representatives from the state fire marshal’s office and the ATF.

The fire scene was a large building that housed a hobby store, so there were many flammable substances contained within its inventory of model-making materials and supplies. Even before beginning the investigation, it was clear to see that there was heavy damage, including collapse of the roof, and it would most probably be a total loss. Add to that all the water that was used to extinguish the fire, and the below zero temperatures. It was a very daunting task to begin to analyze the scene.

Methodical and organized approach to fire investigation

Blaze Fire Investigation arrived representing the insurance company. Right from the start, I saw how they methodically and efficiently handled what needed to be done. They brought in an accelerant-sniffing dog. They set up a warm air fan to blow into the building to melt the ice. On stand-by was an excavation company with heavy equipment just in case it was needed to access the rest of the structure. They even set up a warming shed so that the people involved could better handle the sub-zero temperatures on this bitter cold New Year’s Day.

What impressed me the most about the work that Blaze Fire did during this investigation was their methodical, organized approach that showed that they were not going to take any shortcuts. At the same time, they had the resources and the expertise to arrive at the facts in an efficient manner. Not only did they call on in-house engineers but the investigator on the scene was herself, an electrical engineer, which meant they she was able to do an in-depth analysis in a relatively short period of time.

Support for my career with training and education

A few months after this investigation, I retired from my police career and was contemplating going into fire investigation on the public side. I knew that I wanted to be associated with a company that had a great reputation so when someone told me that Blaze wanted to add to their investigator staff, I knew I wanted to talk to them. During conversations with the owners, I felt quite at ease and very quickly recognized that this would be a good fit. I also recognized that their willingness to support my career with ongoing training and certifications, was not just a way to make the work stand up in court, but signified their willingness to invest in me.

I now have a couple of years in my fire investigator job with Blaze under my belt. The no-shortcut strategies that I first observed on that West Allis fire scene are the ones that I practice now. Getting the job done for Blaze Fire Investigation means that I have the resources that I need -- whether it’s immediate access to an engineer, special equipment that will save time and money, or ongoing training and education that keeps my knowledge and credentials up-to-date.

Honest and straightforward with clients

In my work as a fire investigator, I appreciate the freedom to be honest and straightforward with the client. In the end, it’s the client who decides how far the investigation should go. They can’t do that without placing a huge amount of trust in the capabilities of the investigator. The only company that I would work for is the company who provides the answers people trust. That’s why I work for Blaze Fire Investigation.

Learn more about Steve and the rest of the Blaze team.

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NFPA 921 Guidelines Instrumental in Aiding Fire Investigation Outcomes

In-depth knowledge of the NFPA 921 guide, regarding notification to interested parties in a fire investigation, is critical to establishing a potential path to recovery for our clients. In addition to determining cause of the fire, it is our goal to provide notice to the parties so that those involved are only those that are necessary, and that the fire scene is preserved as much as possible to allow everyone equal opportunity to participate in the investigation. Blaze Fire Investigation is able to expertly incorporate NFPA 921 with a combination of the expert skills of our on-site investigators and the availability of forensic engineering consulting through colleagues at Anderson Engineering of New Prague, Inc.

Determining origin - interviewing

Fire scenes come in all conditions, from very light damage to total destruction. Whatever the scene, our investigators know that the people involved can be quite upset and even traumatized by what has happened. As our investigators make contact with these people as they enter a scene, they reassure them about the purpose of the investigation, and with their forthright and nonthreatening manner, open the door to honest dialogue.

Blaze Fire Investigators use well-honed interviewing skills to ask the right questions that will uncover facts that move the investigation along. The questioning strategy might include reconstructing a visual of the objects in the scene. It could include a history of renovations or repairs that have been made to the property. Questions directed at behaviors and actions that occurred prior to the fire are very important to identifying potential causes of a fire.

Determining origin - forensics

As they sift through debris at a fire scene at the beginning of an investigation, Blaze Fire Investigators balance their goal of determining origin with the need to preserve evidence if a joint scene is required. This is where connections with forensic engineers at Anderson Engineering of New Prague, Inc. provide Blaze Fire with resources that other investigation companies do not have readily available. At any time, our investigators can consult with an electrical or mechanical engineer to better identify products and systems that may be involved.

When a joint scene is required, only the necessary parties are placed on notice and the investigation can continue in the most cost effective manner possible. For example, let’s say that there was an investigation of a kitchen fire. The burn pattern points to an origin that is on the counter and doesn’t include the area where the stove and fridge are located. Possible parties for notice could include manufacturers of countertop appliances but not to the large appliances across the room that were not in the defined area of origin.

Providing clients with all the options

Throughout a fire scene investigation, Blaze Fire Investigators are in communication with clients, providing them with facts that they need to make decisions and move the process forward in an efficient, timely manner. Each case is different, but with highly trained investigators and a team of forensic experts at hand, we effectively act as the investigative eyes and ears for clients who need answers to the origin and cause of a fire, leading to the best path to recovery.

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