Investigation of Gas and Electric Appliance Fires

Join us for our intensive 4-day, in-lab, hands-on program for fire investigators. DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK, THE 2020 SESSION HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Upcoming Dates

    No upcoming dates for this seminar.

Tuition is $895 per person.

Register early! This class is limited to the first 48 students.

Held on site at the Fire Findings laboratory testing facility - 2026 Plaza Drive, Benton Harbor, Michigan.

40 minutes from South Bend (Ind.) or Kalamazoo (Mich.) airports and 2 hours from Chicago airports.

St. Joseph/Benton Harbor is located along the southern shores of Lake Michigan - a gorgeous area to visit.

Course Background

Investigation of Gas and Electric Appliance Fires is a hands-on learning experience conducted in the Fire Findings laboratory. You'll learn how appliances work, fail and cause fires, as well as how to examine them.

Optional CFI test credits and CEU credits available.

Jim Finneran and Jack Sanderson, experts in fire origin and cause, created this investigation course 28 years ago to satisfy the need for hands-on technical experience that can't be achieved in a traditional classroom setting. They developed the curriculum, wrote and illustrated the course notebook and designed and built more than 25 product-failure demonstrations.

During the four-day course, you'll test yourself by examining normal, failed and tampered-with components and appliances to gain practical experience for field examinations. You'll analyze actual case studies from your instructors' files and see how X-ray examinations provide an introduction to nondestructive testing.

Optional test credits toward CFI certification are also available along with continuing education credits.

About Your Instructors

Nathan P. Dwyer, is a licensed professional engineer (PE) and a certified fire investigator (CFI) specializing in electrical fire investigation and fire-involved appliance analysis. He has been a speaker at various regional seminars and International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) conferences. As an instructor, he is known for making complicated subjects easier to understand.

Jack L. Sanderson, Fire Findings’ founder and CFI, is a nationally recognized speaker, author and expert with more than 30 years of in-the-field experience. He specializes in appliance failures and product testing / analysis and has completed Honeywell, Whirlpool, Maycor and National Propane Association factory training. Dwyer and Sanderson also team up to present the widely acclaimed seminar, “Residential Electricity for Fire Investigators,” in our lab.

James M. Finneran, of Electrotek Consultants, Inc., specializes in electrical failures and fires and has been involved in several product recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). He has testified in product failure fire cases throughout the United States and serves on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 921 Technical Committee on Fire Investigations.

Dwyer, Sanderson and Finneran have instructed thousands of investigators, attorneys and insurance representatives. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the CPSC and numerous state chapters of the IAAI have called on them to present training sessions. 

Course Outline

4 Day Session
  • Days 1, 2 and 3 classes are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time.
  • Day 4 class is 8:30 to 2 p.m.

Gas appliance instruction schedule includes:

  • High- and low-order explosion demonstrations
  • Natural vs. LP gases
  • Potential gas piping failures
  • Gas regulator functions with demonstration of cut-a-way regulators
  • Excessive and inadequate pressure demonstration
  • Operation of combination gas valves
    • Safety shutoff demonstration
    • Ignition of gas leaking through shutoffs
  • Operation of water heaters
    • Demonstrations of water heater failure modes
    • How to examine failed water heaters
    • Investigation of possible water heater fires
  • Operation of standard and high-efficiency furnaces
    • How to examine components (high limits, fan switches, thermostats)
  • Demonstrations of furnace failure modes
    • How to examine failed furnaces
    • What to look for in suspected furnace fires
  • Operation of clothes dryers
    • Examination of components (high limits, heating elements, timers)
    • Role of lint
    • Failure modes
    • Examination of failed dryers - what to look for
    • Investigation of suspected dryer fires
    • How to identify a dryer's manufacturer
  • Morning - coffee, juice and bakery items each morning.
  • Friday lunch included.
  • Snacks and beverages throughout the day.

Electric appliance instruction schedule includes:

  • Ranges: Did the range come on by itself or did someone leave it operating?
    • Infinite control switches — how they work and how to examine them post-fire
    • Fire-causing failure modes: unzipping a range’s heating elements, control panel fires
  • Refrigerators: Too cold to burn? Obviously not.
    • Examination and identification of components — where and what they are
    • Appreciation of a refrigerator’s contribution to a fire: fuel!
    • Fire-causing failure modes
  • Dishwashers: What was that about not combining electricity and water?
    • Examination and identification of components — where and what they are
    • Heating element, timer, limit and float switches
    • The role of rinse-aid
    • The dangers of mixing electricity and water
  • Microwave ovens: What’s inside? Examination and identification of components
    • Fire-causing failure modes
    • Incendiary devices
  • Small appliances fires: As time permits, fans, toasters (today’s toaster is not the same as your mother’s appliance), clothes irons (they seem like obvious fire causes but maybe not), space heaters and coffeemakers, etc.
  • What is and isn’t a fuel when it comes to appliances
  • Using fire investigation principles on a macro-scale — adapting arc-mapping to appliance fire analysis
  • Avoiding spoliation claims using nondestructive methodology
  • Does a product recall make a fire cause? Doesn’t no recall mean the appliance didn’t start the fire?

... and more!


More Information

While you're visiting along the Lake Michigan shoreline...
The Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council has a visitor information packet just for Fire Findings’ seminar participants. To get yours,
call (269) 925-6301.

We recommend Comfort Suites, of Stevensville, Michigan, for your hotel accommodations.
Comfort Suites is about 10 minutes from the lab and your stay includes a free hot breakfast, wireless internet, microwave ovens and refrigerators in every room, fitness center and indoor pool.

For $84 per night, choose from queen or king suites (excludes tax).

To reserve this special rate online, we'll email you a link with your seminar registration confirmation, or call Comfort Suites directly at (269) 428-4888. Mention you're with Fire Findings.

Comfort Suites is located at 2633 W. Marquette Woods Road, Stevensville, Michigan.

Hotel reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis at this special rate. Don't wait too long to make your reservation after you've been confirmed for the seminar session of your choice.

IMPORTANT: Check conference availability before making your hotel, automobile or flight reservations. Please call us at 269-925-2200 during regular business hours to confirm seminar openings.

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