The Belleville Fire Investigation Unit (FIU), is charged with determining the origin and cause of each fire that occurs within the corporate city limits of Belleville. The FIU unit members are certified as fire investigators through the State of Illinois. Two of the supervising members are also nationally certified as investigators through the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI). The members are extensively trained in fire pattern recognition, photographing, diagramming, evidence collection and report writing. Each member may participate in courtroom testimony and depositions rendering expert opinions.
In 2009, Belleville Fire Department was awarded an accelerant detection K-9, also known as an arson dog, named Chewy. Chewy was trained by Maine Specialty Dogs and certified by Maine Criminal Justice Academy. This was made possible by a grant program from State Farm Insurance. Chewy is trained to sniff and locate accelerants, such as gasoline, commonly used to intentionally set fires. Chewy and her handler are the first K-9 investigation team in the City of Belleville.
Fire investigators use the guidelines set forth in NFPA 921 classifying each incident in one of four categories.
• Incendiary - Fires that are intentionally and maliciously set. • Accidental - Fires caused by non malicious electrical, mechanical, chemical, and other careless means. • Undetermined - Fires that have more than one possible ignition source and where one specific cause cannot be determined. • Natural - Fires ignited by acts of nature, such as lightning.
All fires classified as "Incendiary" will be forwarded to the Belleville Police Department for further investigation. FIU has a close working relationship with the Belleville Police Department and the Arson detectives assigned to each case. Investigators may on some occasion work in conjunction with the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (FBATF).
Chewy and Handler
Joe Garland and his partner Chewy are the first K-9 fire investigation team in the City of Belleville. Joe has been a full-time firefighter since 2001. Chewy is a female Black Labrador Retriever born in February of 2008. Chewy is annually trained by Maine Specialty Dogs and became certified by Maine Criminal Justice Academy in April/May 2009. Chewy was acquired by a grant program from State Farm Insurance Company. She is trained to detect and locate accelerants (i.e. gasoline) commonly used to intentionally set fires.