Consequences of Labeling Fire Cases Incorrectly
WESLACO – Eight out of 18 fire investigations were ruled undetermined in the city of Mission during this current fiscal year, starting in October 2016.
The cause of a fire can be ruled as: accidental, incendiary, natural, child's play, or undetermined.
Mission Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Gilbert Sanchez said the reason why a fire is categorized as undetermined is mainly due to lack of information.
However, he said wrongly labeling the cause of a fire could do more damage.
"When it falls into the insurance aspect of it, we [firefighters] don't want to damage an appliance, say a stove or a microwave, because as soon as we move or tamper with it, it might interfere with the coverage of the person being insured,” he explained.
Sanchez said insurance companies have more resources, proper funding and equipment to better analyze evidence at a fire scene.
If an incorrect determination is made on their side, he said it could affect how much a victim gets from their insurance.
“We want to make sure that these individuals get their proper funding, so we don't want to tamper with that. We'll place an evidence tag on it advising the residents not to tamper with it until the insurance company adjuster comes by."
It’s a risk Sanchez said he wants to avoid unless all evidence and interview statements clearly pinpoint the cause of a fire.
Sanchez said fire marshal investigators follow up on cases when they are ruled as arson. He added the rest of the categories are turned over to the insurance companies.
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