arson

KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders (left), Detective Brian Lewis (middle) and Justice Secretary John Tilley (right) pose for a picture at the ceremony on May 30 (photo via Kentucky State Police).

On May 30 Detective Brian Lewis of Kentucky State Police Post 11 in London was named the 2018 Arson Investigator of the Year.

Lewis attended a ceremony in Lexington where a total of 58 Kentucky State Police troopers were recognized for their work around state. Justice Secretary John Tilley, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders and Gov. Matt Bevin were all in attendance at the ceremony.

“It’s an honor to be named that,” Lewis said. “We have a great arson team in the state and every one of us do our job and do what we’re supposed to.” Lewis, who is a 10 year veteran of the Kentucky State Police, also added he did not feel deserving of it.

Troopers were honored for their “acts of bravery, life-saving, professionalism and dedication to duty,” according to a press release from the Kentucky State Police.

Lewis said he believes it was just consistent, diligent work that earned him the honor rather than a singular standout case in 2018.

“I go into work every day trying to do the best that I can and trying to do what needs to be done to complete the jobs and tasks at hand.”

On average, around 550 fires involving arson occur each year in or around areas that are “abandoned, vacant-secured, vacant-unsecured, uninhabited, idle, and to be demolished,” according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

An arson investigator isn't only a detective, but also a fire scientist, according to FIreScience.org. Arson investigators appear at a scene and first determine what potentially caused a fire to start and then move into the process of determining whether any criminal activity was involved.

Even though arson investigators don’t usually appear at the scene of a fire, they still put themselves in dangerous situations when they arrive at an area damaged by fire.

Arson investigators can be at scenes that are still extremely hot from a raging fire and there is an almost constant possibility looming of health issues developing due to being around harmful breathing conditions, according to FireApparatusMagazine.com. Arson investigators also face the potential of chemicals being exposed to their skin and damaging their bodies.

While it may seem like an obvious suggestion for arson investigators to wait for a scene to cool down to minimize the chances for harm, this also risks the chance of allowing evidence to burn and potentially be unusable, according to ForensicOutreach.com. Also according to ForensicOutreach.com, even firefighters dousing a fire in water can displace or corrupt evidence which makes an investigators job even more difficult.

Billions of dollars worth of damage is caused by arson across the United States every year and more than 500,000 fires are purposely started each year in the United States, according to MSOnet.com.

Arson is also responsible for 1,000 deaths in the United States every year, according to NIR-INC.com. The same site states that arson is the number one cause of fires in commercial buildings and the number two cause for residential fires.

ccoyle@sentinel-echo.com

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