CAL FIRE Law Enforcement Deploys Leica Geosystems’ 3D Laser Scanning to Support Fire Investigations and Recovery of Fire Suppression Costs
30 July 2007(Norcross, Ga., 31 July 2007) – The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has selected the Leica ScanStation 3D laser scanner from Leica Geosystems to support fire investigations on its over 31 million acres of responsibility. Developed for versatility and productivity, the Leica ScanStation provides investigators with a powerful tool for fire scene reconstruction by enabling the rapid collection of millions of high accuracy measurements at the scene. The 3D scan data can then be used to analyze the pre-fire spatial relationships and geometry between trees, branches, terrain, structures and nearby utilities. The ScanStation is a highly mobile laser scanner platform that is uniquely suited to the speed, accuracy and mobility requirements of a fire services organization.
CAL FIRE’s first introduction to the benefits of 3D laser scanning emerged in the aftermath of a fire several years ago that started when a dead tree fell on a power line. When questions arose as to how the fire started, CAL FIRE called in a local laser scanning consultant to map the area. Using data from a Leica Geosystems laser scanner, the agency was able to show that due to insufficient forest maintenance in the vicinity of power lines, a utility company was responsible for the subsequent fire. The detailed fire scene reconstruction enabled by the Leica Geosystems laser scanner was instrumental in helping CAL FIRE recover over $10 million in fire suppression costs. Since this first application, CAL FIRE has used laser scanning technology to investigate a number of fire scenes throughout the state of California.
Tom Hoffman, Chief of Law Enforcement for CAL FIRE says, “We’re very excited about having this tool readily available to our investigators and law enforcement personnel. Our goal is to find the truth by determining a reliable and accurate representation of the actual events. Laser scanning can help us do that. Ideally suited to fire investigation, it’s quick, very mobile, highly accurate, and most important, provides clarity of evidence in a visually friendly way.”
Once the 3D scan data is collected, fire investigators can virtually revisit the scene at any time to make additional measurements as the scope of their investigation changes. The digital data can also be imported into CAD or specialized software to create a physical model, rendering or even virtual animations.
Tony Grissim, Public Safety and Forensic Account Manager for Leica Geosystems, summarizes, “Fire scene reconstruction is a growing application area for our scanners as both attorneys and insurance companies come to realize the compelling nature of scan data collected by fire investigators. The findings from investigations like these can mean the difference between millions of dollars in pay outs or, in some cases, people going to prison.