Investigating fires is especially challenging as the evidence is often lost or damaged in the blaze. Image used for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Abu Dhabi Police

Abu Dhabi: With the onset of summer, the risk of fires has risen at home and in cars, officials have warned, while issuing alerts to help residents avoid lapses in safety.

The Ministry of the Interior has urged the public not to neglect air conditioning devices and electrical appliances, random and unsafe use of extensions, and leaving flammable materials inside vehicles.

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It called on community members to maintain air conditioning devices by only using the services of licensed technicians. The Ministry also advised them to plug each electrical appliance into a separate electrical socket, avoid using additional extension cords, and not leave perfume bottles, lighters, and sterilisation materials inside vehicles.

File photo of a fire in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Abu Dhabi Police

Most dangerous fires

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Police and Abu Dhabi Civil Defence have underscored that car fires are among the most dangerous and their risk increases in summer. They explained that cars contain flammable material such as fuel, oils, and internal components such as plastic, rubber, and others.

Lieutenant Colonel Dr Engineer Adel Nassib Nasser Al Saqri

Speaking to Gulf News, Lieutenant Colonel Dr Engineer Adel Nassib Nasser Al Saqri, Head of the Fire Department in the Forensic Evidence Department at Abu Dhabi Police, explained that the main reasons for vehicle fires are liquids that contain highly flammable materials in the vehicle, and drivers using counterfeit products that are not compatible with the vehicle’s electrical system, which leads to a short circuit and fire. Another reason is not disconnecting electrical devices inside the vehicle, especially in the summer, and installing additional parts in the vehicle by a nonspecialist technician.

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Investigating blazes

Speaking more broadly about probing blazes, Lt Col Dr Al Saqri said: “Fire investigation is a challenging area due to the damage caused to the fire scene and available evidence. The evidence is often burnt, melted, smoke-stained, water-damaged, and trampled on, making it difficult to gather and analyse information.”

He added: “Each case has its own merits and special considerations that distinguish it from others in terms of the complexity of the examination and its technical requirements. Therefore, every case submitted to the department is considered distinct and equally important.”

Fire incident or crime scene?

Fire incident investigations are conducted to protect and preserve evidence at a fire - and therefore a potential crime scene, Lt Col Dr Al Saqri said. The analysis of a fire scene not only requires the investigator to determine the origin of the fire but also the cause and how the fire developed, the fire’s probable route of spread through a building and how it was extinguished.

It is one of the more challenging areas of forensic science due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the investigator’s job as fires can be caused by, or involve, everyday items. The investigator also needs to understand many other disciplines, such as prevention, construction, electricity, gas and even human behaviour. He or she can therefore can be called to court as an expert witness.

Seven employees at Abu Dhabi Police have received international accreditation certificates in fire investigation from International Association of Arson Investigators in the US Image Credit: Abu Dhabi Police

He added that the Criminal Evidence Department of Abu Dhabi Police is equipped with modern laboratories, systems, and expertise to support crime detection efforts. The Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit of the Department conducts investigations into the causes and prevention methods of fires and arson. These units carry out inspections of homes, buildings, factories, commercial centres, celebration halls, inspect parks and entertainment venues. They also grant licenses for hazardous materials and permits for fireworks and special effects displays.