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Fact Sheet - Certified Fire Investigator (CFI)

May, 2018
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Fast Facts

  1. ATF certified fire investigators are special agents trained in fire origin and cause investigations who can issue origin and cause determinations.

  2. CFIs complete a two-year training program that includes fire origin and cause determination, fire dynamics, fire modeling, building construction, electricity and fire causation, health and safety, scene reconstruction, evidence collection and expert testimony.

  3. ATF initiated 2,329 fire scene examinations in fiscal year 2017.

Image of ATF certified fire investigators on a fire scene. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) certified fire investigators (CFI) are special agent subject matter experts who provide technical support, analysis and assistance to ATF and its local, state and federal law enforcement and emergency service partners in arson investigations, as well as fire origin and cause determinations. They operate throughout the entire U.S., its territories and in other countries as part of the ATF International Response Team (IRT).

These CFIs are a primary resource for ATF field divisions for violent crime investigations involving arson and arson-for-profit; conducting fire scene examinations; making origin and cause determinations; providing expert testimony; assisting other special agents and prosecutors with investigations; and conducting training for ATF special agents and other local, state and federal fire investigators. 

ATF CFIs complete a rigorous two-year training program that includes fire origin and cause determination, fire dynamics, fire modeling, building construction, electricity and fire causation, health and safety, scene reconstruction, evidence collection and expert courtroom testimony.  Certification requires that candidates successfully complete nine weeks of in-person training, six graduate level college courses, and reading assignments and field experience designed to provide special agents with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to effectively investigate complex fire scenes and arson cases. CFIs are also required to complete a research project and thesis on a subject relating to fire science. At the conclusion of the two-year program, all ATF CFIs complete the CFI exam administered by the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) to obtain internationally recognized certification from an independent certification body.

In addition to CFIs, the expertise of the ATF U.S. Bomb Data Center, non-agent explosives enforcement officers (EEO), the National Response Team (NRT), three forensic science laboratories and the Fire Research Laboratory contribute to fire and arson investigations. ATF initiated 2,329 fire scene examinations in fiscal year 2017.

The ATF basic investigative jurisdiction in arson is delineated in 18 United States Code, Chapter 40, Section 844 (Title XI of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, as amended by the Anti-Arson Act of 1982) and Section 846 and 26 United States Code, Chapter 53 (Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended).

For more information about CFIs, go to https://www.atf.gov/arson/tools-and-services-arson-enforcement.

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