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Electrical and Fire Research Engineers

Burn cell is located at the fire research lab and the fire is put out

Electrical and fire research engineers work with special agents on fire investigations and explosion incidents. They also deploy with ATF’s National Response Teams and International Response Teams to collect evidence and identify the source of arson and explosive crimes. Electrical and fire research engineers work out of the Fire Research Lab in Ammendale, Maryland.

Electrical engineers gather electronic data to determine whether a structure’s electrical system was faulty or working properly during the ignition of a fire, and whether electrical components were responsible for how the fire or explosion started. They share data with fire research engineers and provide the results to investigators. 

Fire research engineers examine fire scenes to identify fire origins and behavior, and determine fire spread patterns. They develop fire causation test programs and use microscopic imaging tools to find trace evidence on materials recovered from fires. Fire research engineers also compile their research findings and share the results with certified fire investigators, attorneys, and local and state officials during trainings.

Training and Education

ATF recruits applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering or an equivalent combination of college-level education, training and/or experience working in their field.

Once hired, new engineers participate in a year-long internal training program focused on fire and explosives investigations, where they learn incident investigation, evidence handling and criminal case legal proceedings.


A fire research lab technician explains how the burn cell works

Electrical and fire research engineers work with ATF’s interagency partners to share best practices and new research findings. They publish ground-breaking case studies and lessons learned in trade publications and scientific journals.

ATF’s engineers also teach fire related trainings held at ATF’s National Fire Academy and National Center for Explosives Training and Research (NCETR), as well as the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), and International Association of Fire Investigators (IAAI) events.

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