Firefighters will set fake domestic rooms ablaze at a new Aberdeenshire facility in an effort to hone their investigation techniques.
The Joint Scottish Fire Investigation Training and Research Facility in Porthlethen, which opened on July 5, will look at forensic scene investigation tactics used by firefighters, police and forensic services personnel.
Two purpose-built containers will be made to look like household settings.
They will be set up as realistically as possible, with donated furniture and appliances connected to a mains electrical supply, before being set on fire.
After being extinguished by fire firefighters, the resulting burn scene will be examined by SFRS and Forensic Services as part of a training and development programme.
It will also help provide materials for research into new and emerging technologies, including the use of virtual reality as a way of viewing fire scenes.
“Simulating a fire scene allows us to better understand how fires start, take hold and develop,” said SFRS area commander David Dourley.
He added: “By understanding more about how things burn, and getting experience in a simulated fire scene, our teams will be able to identify important tell-tale signs following a fire to help us determine the most likely origin and cause.
“This facility allows for research into new technologies and emerging risks, for example, we’ll be able to look at items containing lithium-ion batteries and the impact of these types of fires.”
The project, created by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Forensic Services, also forms part of the National Crime Scene Management training course.
The facility also involved the help of Dundee University’s Leverhulme Centre for forensic science and Danish Police.
Graham Strong, forensic operations lead alongside Karen Robertson, lead forensic scientist said: “It allows realistic training to enable fire Investigators to keep up their high-level skills in one of the most complicated areas of forensic work.”
He added that the project is “truly innovative,” and will help in ensuring Scotland remains “a world leader in the provision of fire investigation”.
The fire will be photographed to enable it to be rendered into virtual reality by experts at the Leverhulme Centre, allowing Forensic Services and SFRS to retain a bank of scenes which can be used in a virtual environment for training purposes.
The centre’s director, Niamh Nic Daeid, said: “It has been a real pleasure to work together to develop this facility and partnership in Scotland and to use technology to aid our understanding of fires and provide training tools for the next generation of fire investigators.”
While the facility is a Scottish venture, there remains a significant international collaboration with the Danish Police.
Data from scenes collected at Portlethen will be shared with Danish colleagues while they, in turn, will share their own.