Professional Engineering & Investigation Services

Anderson Engineering & Investigations are professional engineers experienced in manufacturing engineering, product and process failure mode analysis, electrical, mechanical, and forensic engineering including fire investigation services.

When you need answers you can trust, Anderson Engineering & Investigations will provide you with timely, understandable results.

Knowledge of Boat and Dock Systems Vital to Fire Investigation

Blaze Fire Investigation is now know as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

Marine fire investigators need to understand boat and dock systems, how they are interrelated and how they function in order to accurately determine origin and cause of a fire incident. The ability to read boat schematics allows investigators to look at the arrangement of bulkheads and electrical systems in their analysis and point to potential causes of failure. The effects of vibration, corrosion and the addition of after-market parts can create fire hazards that the investigator can pinpoint because he knows what should and should not be present in the construction of the vessel.

Most boat fires are caused by electrical issues

Electrical systems on boats run many systems - from pumps and blowers, to heating and air conditioning. Wires run throughout the boat where they can be possible ignition sources. It is possible for a fuel leak to cause a fire in a location that is not close to the source of the leak. Fuel vapors can travel to the place where vibrations may have chaffed the wiring, or corrosion has eaten through the wire coating, creating an ignition source. Boats are designed with ventilation systems to remove dangerous vapors but sometimes these systems fail because of lack of maintenance, or lack of knowledge of the boat owner about their proper use.

Many owners do not themselves, understand the intricate electrical systems on their boats. They unknowingly create fire hazards when repairs have been made that don’t take into account actual power requirements or use marine approved wiring and materials. Improper fueling procedures cause fire hazards when the boat owner doesn’t realize the necessity of blowers to vent the vapors from the boat interior. As with any fire investigation, interviewing the boat or dock owner and any witnesses provides important information that, when combined with forensic analysis, leads to a confident conclusion of origin and cause.

Dock systems may be the cause of boat fires in harbor

A pleasure craft is not just a hobby for many people, it’s their home. Just as a camper plugs in to water and power at a camp ground, a boat does the same at a marina slip. The water and power systems on the dock need to be considered when examining a fire that has occurred while in harbor. A failure in the installation of an electrical supply could result in reverse polarity into a vessel or a ground fault that energizes the surrounding water.

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Marine Fire Investigation Scenes

Blaze Fire Investigation is now known as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

You might think that it’s redundant to talk about the scene of a boat fire, but marine fire investigation includes fire scenes that are above, below and out of the water.

The fire scene – below the water

Because the scene of a boat fire is usually on the water, there are inherent difficulties that are present in the analysis and recovery of the damaged vessel. If the boat has sunk, the investigation needs to begin by documenting the scene with underwater photographs. Depending upon how deep the water is, the spread diameter of debris can be quite extensive. In addition to providing valuable information about what happened to the boat, the photo documentation operates as a check system to assure that all possible artifacts have been recovered. Because of the movement of water, and the potential presence of vegetation and rugged underwater terrain, it isn’t always possible to collect all debris but that is the goal for this part of the marine fire investigation.

The fire scene – above the water

When a scene includes a vessel that is still on the water, investigators need to be cautious with their movements, determining if the boat is safe to enter. In addition, fluids within the various systems will leak into the void spaces in the vessel and migrate into the surrounding water creating an environmental issue. Containment of any spill will be necessary as will notification to the area Environmental Protection Agent or Water Reclamation District.

On or under the water, the next part of the investigation will take place on a hard deck. The process of moving the boat to the hard deck is complex requiring the expertise of marine salvagers. The weight of water from a split or sunk hull adds to the difficulty in bringing it to the surface or moving out of a marine or dock area. This process could further damage the boat as it is pulled from the water causing evidence to be lost. Custody of the boat is determined by the authority of jurisdiction. That authority will make decisions about the recovery process; who has custody of the watercraft; and what measures are necessary to assure security.

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