Fire Scene Investigation

7:30pm Monday, September 6 on TV One

New Zealand’s fire fighters battle more than 20,000 fires every year; blazes that devastate homes, businesses, farmland and forestry, causing millions of dollars of damage and loss. But what happens after the smoke clears and the embers fade? For a small, highly trained team specialising in the science and art of fire investigation, the fire is just the beginning of the story. Where did the fire start? What was its cause? How can it be prevented from happening again? It’s their task to find the answers.

Terry Castle is a Specialist Fire Investigator, he explains what his highly specialised job entails, “to co-ordinate, supervise and or undertake investigations into major and serious fires, including fatal fires, by determining the point of origin of a fire and from this, establishing the cause of a fire.” Castle is often called on to provide evidence in the Coroner’s Court, District Court and High Court after investigating a serious fire.

Asked what motivates him in his role, Castle responds, “I enjoy being challenged and the greater the challenge the greater the joy of getting a positive outcome. In each fire I am determined to come up with the right answer.”

Castle says one of the most challenging aspects of the job is working with people who have been affected by fires. “The inter-relationship with people who have been traumatized by the effects of fire really interests me. Their input is useful in helping to inform the fire investigation process through deduction.

“Having done fire investigation for many years I have learnt to have a degree of empathy and understanding while retaining an analytical side to focus on the fire. It’s a case of dealing with someone who has been hugely impacted while remaining professional and focused. With my experience I have generally seen it all before,” Castle says.

Parts of his job can be very frustrating, Castle explains, “the most common fires in homes are the kitchen fires. These are incredibly frustrating because they are totally avoidable. While we recognise that people are human and make errors, these fires are totally preventable. Another never ending frustration is the lack of batteries in smoke alarms, or where they have been removed by occupants prior to the fire because of false alarms etc. Yet the early warning saves lives.”

Castle also has to deal with arsonists whose motivations can be varied, “many do it due to a lack of understanding of consequence. However, when it’s just recklessness I see it as inhuman behaviour – destroying kindergartens, destroying children’s work [for example].”

The camera crew follow Castle in some of his investigations and he explains what that experience was like, “it was challenging because I was concentrating on the task and then having to elaborate to someone who wasn’t familiar with the discipline of fire investigation, but the sense of satisfaction is that a message is getting out to the community. If it makes a difference, even just in preventing a fire or two, it’s been worth it.”

Fire Scene Investigation is a ten-part local series that tracks the investigation from the initial fire call-out through to the determination of origin and cause. Witnesses are interviewed, leads are followed, theories explored and evidence unearthed and analysed – all in a quest for the truth.

Fire Scene Investigation also reveals the human cost of fires – the loss of homes, livelihoods and life at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful forces. It is an emotional time, often filled with raw pain and horror – through the midst of which the investigators must navigate a steady course as they search for answers to the devastation that faces them.

In tonight’s show, Castle is called to investigate a fire which destroyed a couple’s two-story home in rural Waiuku. Castle has 700 investigations behind him, but the devastation of this fire means that even he will struggle to find answers. Tragically, occupants Jane and Stuart have lost everything, including the dogs that they loved like children.

Missed an episode of Fire Scene Investigation? Full episodes are available online. Go to tvnz.co.nz and click the ‘Ondemand’ button

7:30pm Monday, September 6 on TV One

New Zealand’s fire fighters battle more than 20,000 fires every year; blazes that devastate homes, businesses, farmland and forestry, causing millions of dollars of damage and loss. But what happens after the smoke clears and the embers fade? For a small, highly trained team specialising in the science and art of fire investigation, the fire is just the beginning of the story. Where did the fire start? What was its cause? How can it be prevented from happening again? It’s their task to find the answers.

Fire Scene Investigation is a ten-part local series that tracks the investigation from the initial fire call-out through to the determination of origin and cause. Witnesses are interviewed, leads are followed, theories explored and evidence unearthed and analysed – all in a quest for the truth.

Fire Scene Investigation also reveals the human cost of fires – the loss of homes, livelihoods and life at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful forces. It is an emotional time, often filled with raw pain and horror – through the midst of which the investigators must navigate a steady course as they search for answers to the devastation that faces them.

In tonight’s show, Specialist Fire Investigator Terry Castle is called to investigate a fire which destroyed a couple’s two-story home in rural Waiuku. Castle has 700 investigations behind him, but the devastation of this fire means that even he will struggle to find answers. Tragically, occupants Jane and Stuart have lost everything, including the dogs that they loved like children.

Missed an episode of Fire Scene Investigation? Full episodes are available online. Go to tvnz.co.nz and click the ‘Ondemand’ button.