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Learning how to spot the cause of fires

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Thirty students from Michigan fire departments, sheriff’s offices and other public safety agencies have spent the past two weeks learning about fire.

An old farmhouse served as a learning laboratory on Thursday for the fledgling fire investigators. Different rooms of the empty home south of Lansing were set on fire; the students had to figure out exactly how those fires were started.

Lenny Jaskulka is a specialist sergeant with the Michigan State police. He says there’s a lot to learn to become a certified fire scene investigator.

“The only way to do that is through intensive instruction and continuing education,” says Jaskulka.

The Michigan State Police have been conducting the fire school for more than three decades.

Sgt. Michael Benjamin is with the Michigan State Police. He says the fire investigation training has changed over the years as technology has changed and the understanding of fire has grown. 

“As they learn more about … what fire does, how fire moves, how fire acts under certain situation, the school evolves and tries to incorporate that,” says Benjamin.

Firefighters taking part in the training say understanding how fires start will help them do their jobs better. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.