Course Syllabus

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FES4685: Fire Investigation and Analysis


Dr. Chris Reynolds, Ed.D., CEM, CFO, EFO, MEMS

photo of Chris ReynoldsDr. Chris Reynolds has extensive civilian and military emergency management and homeland security experience. He retired in 2010 from a large civilian Fire-Rescue department after serving 33 years, rising to the rank of Division Chief and Shift Commander. He also retired in 2014 from the United States Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel, where he was an Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) assigned to the Defense Support of Civilian Authorities (DSCA) Command Cell, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern), Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Air Force EPLOs support the designated combatant commander and lead federal agencies to assist in coordinating military support to local, state and federal agencies involved in domestic incident management. He is a certified emergency manager (CEM) through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) and has commanded numerous multi-alarm/multi-agency emergency scenes, mass casualty, and hazardous materials emergencies. He was deployed to the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, assisting the FEMA Incident Support Team (IST) on site.

In his military role, he deployed to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the officer in command of an aeromedical evacuation liaison team (AELT) that was a part of Joint Task Force (JTF) Katrina and coordinated joint civilian/military airlift of over 20,000 evacuee's and 4,500 casualties. Most recently, Lt. Col. Reynolds was deployed in support of JTF Haitian Earthquake and coordinated the repatriation of Haitian casualties in the South Florida AOR. Lt. Col. Reynolds was among the first mobilized in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks in 2001 and deployed as the commanding officer of an AELT to two classified forward locations in the Afghanistan/Pakistan area. His Team coordinated the medical evacuation of US and coalition combat casualties and directly supported combat search and rescue (CSAR) operations. His Team was recognized by the Department of Defense and awarded the valor "V" device for their efforts. In 1995, he deployed to Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy and coordinated rotary lift-aeromedical evacuation between Port A' Prince and the USNS Comfort.


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Any requests for make-ups due to technical issues MUST be accompanied by the ticket number received from the UF Computing Help Desk when the problem was reported to them. The ticket number will document the time and date of the problem. You MUST message your instructor within 24 hours of the technical difficulty if you wish to request a make-up.

Course Description

This course examines technical, investigative, legal, and managerial approaches to the arson problem, including principles of incendiary fire analysis and detection, environmental and psychological factors of arson, gang-related arson, legal considerations and trial preparations, managing the fire investigation unit, intervention and mitigation strategies, and shaping the future. In addition to modern fire investigation topics, this course will also cover comprehensive documentation, hypothesis testing, and defensible reconstruction of the events leading up to the fire and its final results.

Delving deep into forensic fire engineering, forensic fire scene reconstruction covers engineering calculations, fire modeling and also features several exhaustive case studies which leverage the current technology that is explained in depth throughout the text. Several specialized topic areas are also covered, including use of the drone aircraft, forensic and panoramic photography, computer modeling as well as an advanced discussion of tenability.

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills


Purpose of Course

This course prepares the student to recognize and apply best practices in the investigation of fires, to conduct the origin and cause determination procedures and practices necessary to ascertain if the fire was accidental or incendiary, to prepare the investigative reports necessary to document such analysis, and to apply the findings and knowledge acquired through such efforts to reduce the consequence of both accidental and intentional fires.

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a technical understanding of the characteristics and impacts of fire loss and the crime of arson necessary to conduct competent fire investigation and analysis.
  • Document the fire scene, in accordance with best practice and legal requirements.
  • Analyze the fire scenario utilizing the scientific method, fire science, and relevant technology.
  • Analyze the legal foundation for conducting a systematic incendiary fire investigation and case preparation.
  • Design and integrate a variety of arson related intervention and mitigation strategies.

Course Goals

How This Course Relates to the Student Learning Outcomes in the Fire Emergency Services Program

Demonstrate strong verbal and written communication skills for leadership in fire and emergency services. Illustrate knowledge and legal application of safety, health and environmental regulations at state and federal levels.

Teaching Philosophy

I am looking for students to demonstrate a working knowledge of the subject. You need to be creative when you complete your assignments but maintain a professional appearance of your work. Your work needs to be complete and in such a manner that someone can pick up your document and understand what you are trying to convey. And most of all your work needs to be supported with research and cited in properly in APA format.

Instructional Methods

The course is designed for individual and group interactivity. It is important to post and respond to discussion questions in the course within the time frame allotted. This provides a learning environment by networking with other students in the course. The assignments are individual base to give you the opportunity to do a variety of activities, in many cases, similar to what you will be doing in role as a leader in the emergency services profession.

Course Textbook

Forensic Fire Scene ReconstructionThis course uses the following textbook:

  • Icove, David J., De Haan, John D., Haynes, Gerald A. (2012). Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction (3rd ed.). Pearson. ISBN-10: 0-13-260577-5

Course Policies

Academic Integrity Policy:

  • Plagiarism: Presenting as one's own the ideas, words, or products of another. Plagiarism includes use of any sources to complete academic assignments without proper acknowledgement of the source.
  • Cheating: is a broad term that includes the following:
  • Giving or receiving help from unauthorized persons or materials during examinations.
  • The unauthorized communication of examination questions prior to, during, or following administration of the examination.
  • Collaboration on examinations or assignments expected to be individual work.
  • Fraud and deceit, that include knowingly furnishing false or misleading information or failing to furnish appropriate information when requested, such as when applying for admission to the University.

Attendance Policy

The course is designed in module format. You should check the site at least once a week. You are required to complete the assignments including discussion questions within the time period designated on the module. There will be meetings set up throughout the course. Requirements for class attendance and make-up exams, assignments, and other work in this course are consistent with UF Academic Regulations.

Quiz/Exam Policy

There is a final paper for this course. There are no exams or quizzes.

Make-up Policy

Make-up assignments will only be accepted due to technical issues, illness, and other extenuating circumstances. You must contact your instructor before the assignment's due date for special accommodations.

Any requests for make-ups due to technical issues MUST be accompanied by the ticket number received from the UF Computing Help Desk when the problem was reported to them. The ticket number will document the time and date of the problem. You MUST message your instructor within 24 hours of the technical difficulty if you wish to request a make-up.

Assignment Policy

All assignments have a due date. Please be sure to check the date and time it is due in each module.

Late Assignment and Discussion Policy

You must contact your instructor first if you are going to be late on any assignment to receive credit.

  • Assignments 48 hours late will receive a 10% deduction in their grade. Assignments more than 48 hours but less than 30 days late will receive a 20% deduction in their grade.
  • Assignments more than 30 days late but submitted during the semester will receive a 50% deduction in their grade.
  • Discussions more than 48 hours late will receive a 25% deduction in their grade. Discussions more than 48 hours later will receive a 50% deduction in their grade.

Course Technology

Class meetings will require a web camera and mic/audio. If you are not able to use a web camera you will need to at least provide audio/mic, you can call in on a phone also.

Grading Policies

Assignments, Discussions, and the Final Paper will be returned, graded with feedback within one week (7 days) after submission.

Grade Distribution

Assessment Points Each Total Points
Discussions (x4) 50 pts 200 pts
Papers (x3) 100 pts 300 pts
Final Paper 200 pts
Total 700 pts

Grading Scale

A 93% - 100%
A- 90% - 92%
B+ 87% - 89%
B 83% - 86%
B- 80% - 82%
C+ 77% - 79%
C 73% - 76%
C- 70% - 72%
D+ 67% - 69%
D 63% - 66%
D- 60% - 62%
E 0 - 59%

Information about UF's current grading policies may be found at the UF Grades and Grading Policies website.

Student Feedback Surveys

Every semester, students will complete two surveys to give feedback to the instructor regarding the elements of this course. These surveys are anonymous and are a way for you to provide honest feedback on the course. This feedback is essential to provide the best quality instruction and give you, the learner, the best learning experience. You are asked to give your honest opinion and to share any advice you have to make the course better. You will be asked questions regarding the instructor presence, lectures, assignment quality, etc.

Mid-Course Survey

The Mid-Course Survey will take place during Module 3 of the course. This survey will act as a prerequisite for the rest of the modules, and will require completion before moving forward in the course. You will be graded for your participation in the quiz, not for your answers, as the survey is anonymous.

End-of-Course Survey

The End-of-Course Survey will take place during Module 7 of the course. This survey will act as a prerequisite for the final module and will require completion before moving forward. You will be graded for your participation in the quiz, not for your answers, as the survey is anonymous.

UF Policies

Policy on Accommodating Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations should first register with the Disability Resource Center (352-392-8565) by providing appropriate documentation. Once registered, students will receive an accommodation letter which must be presented to the instructor when requesting accommodation. Students with disabilities should follow this procedure as early as possible in the semester.

The instructor should be notified of any special accommodations required by the student when they begin their course.

UF Counseling Services

Resources are available on campus for students having personal problems or lacking a clear career and academic goals which interfere with their academic performance. These resources include:

University Policy on Academic Misconduct

UF students are bound by The Honor Pledge which states:

"We, the members of the University of Florida community, pledge to hold ourselves and our peers to the highest standards of honesty and integrity by abiding by the Honor Code. On all work submitted for credit by students at the University of Florida, the following pledge is either required or implied: "On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid in doing this assignment."

The Honor Code specifies a number of behaviors that are in violation of this code and the possible sanctions. Furthermore, you are obligated to report any condition that facilitates academic misconduct to appropriate personnel. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with the instructor or TAs in this class.

From Regulations of the University of Florida, 4.041 Student Honor Code and Student Conduct Code: Scope and Violations:

Plagiarism. A student shall not represent as the student's own work all or any portion of the work of another. Plagiarism includes but is not limited to:

  1. Quoting oral or written materials including but not limited to those found on the internet, whether published or unpublished, without proper attribution.
  2. Submitting a document or assignment which in whole or in part is identical or substantially identical to a document or assignment not authored by the student."

From Regulations of the University of Florida, 6C1-4.047 Student Honor Code and Student Conduct Code: Sanctions:

For a violation or violations of the Honor Code, a student may receive any of the sanctions that can be imposed for Student Conduct Code violations, including but not limited to conduct probation, suspension and expulsion as well as any educational sanctions. In addition, students may receive the following:

  1. Assignment grade penalty. The student is assigned a grade penalty on an assignment including but not limited to a zero.
  2. Course grade penalty. The student is assigned a grade penalty in the entire course including but not limited to an 'E'."

Course Evaluation

Students are expected to provide professional and respectful feedback on the quality of instruction in this course by completing course evaluations online via GatorEvals.

Guidance on how to give feedback in a professional and respectful manner is available at the GatorEvals website. Students will be notified when the evaluation period opens, and can complete evaluations through the email they receive from GatorEvals, in their Canvas course menu under GatorEvals, or via the GatorEvals portal. Summaries of course evaluation results are available to students on the GatorEvals Public Data website.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due