Arson investigators from three states are gathered in Council Bluffs for the first-ever tri-state training conference. Council Bluffs Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Hutcheson says fire marshals and other professionals already gather for annual training in every state. He says they’ve talked about the tri-state training for years and it was just a natural thing to go ahead with it. Many fire investigators work on both sides of the Missouri River on cases that involve both Iowa and Nebraska, and since South Dakota borders on both states, “it was just natural to include them.” New fire inspectors or old pro’s, Hutcheson says they’ll all benefit from getting up-to-date training and meeting with others in their field. “You can look at a thousand fires,” he says, “and you’re going to see similarities in every one, but you’re going to see differences in every one.” He says it’s like any other occupation — the more education you have, the better you are able to do your job. He points out they’re also networking, meeting other people in the profession who can share tips and help on cases. Hutcheson says the fire-department arson experts likely will be outnumbered at the conference by private investigators. Hutcheson says in most cases, the public-sector arson expert and an insurance-company arson investigator will be working side-by-side. A private fire investigator may be working on either side. He explains some will be hired by a defendant to try and prove they’re not to blame in the cause of a fire, and others may be employed to confirm a suspicion of arson. Around 175 fire investigators are expected to attend the seminar jointly sponsored by the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota chapters of the International Association of Arson Investigators.
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