The New South Wales Association of Fire Investigators (NSWAFI) is an affiliated Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI). Members of the Association represent employees of the fire services, police, private investigation firms, insurance companies, legal practitioners and forensic scientists.
The NSWAFI is closely affiliated with its parent organisation, the IAAI, as well as other AFI Chapters located in Victoria, Queensland, and New Zealand. The Association also collaborates with partners in industry and academia, ranging from small fire investigation companies to learned societies such as the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS).
To unite, for mutual benefit, those officials and private persons engaged in the control or arson and kindred crimes;
To co-operate with other law enforcement agencies and associations to further fire prevention and suppression of crime;
To encourage high professional standards of conduct among fire investigators and to continually strive to eliminate all factors which interfere with administration of crime suppression.
A Brief History
In 1986, a group of former policemen had become private fire investigators and were primarily working for insurance companies. This group of fire investigators banded together to form an association of like-minded people.
This group included Bruce Sainsbury, Gregory Hancock, Robert King and Ian Beckett. Bruce and Gregory made contact with the American-based International Association of Arson Investigators, and soon afterwards formally established Chapter 47 of the IAAI, then known simply as the Association of Arson Investigators (AAI).
In the early years, membership included academics such as Denis Barret, Robert MacMillan and Brian Grey. Fire Brigade members from the newly formed New South Wales Fridge Brigades' Fire Investigation Unit included John Boath, Alan Easy and Roger Bucholtz. A handful of lawyers and insurance representatives also saw benefit in joining the Association.
The first Australian Arson Seminar was held in Sydney in 1988, featuring prominent American author and fire investigator John DeHaan. The second Australian Arson Seminar was held two years later, once again with John DeHaan in attendance, this time accompanied by Monty McGill, Mark Wallace and Lee Cole; all prominent experts in the American fire investigation industry. The year 1990 also saw the birth of an official Chapter publication: Firepoint, with Ross Brogan as the founding editor. By 1994, the magazine was circulated nationally and distributed to members of newly-formed IAAI Chapters in Victoria and Queensland.
In 1995, the Association changed its name from the Association of Arson Investigators to the Association of Fire Investigators, in recognition of the fact that investigators were often examining accidental fires rather than those that were deliberately set. Fire investigators should not attend a fire scene with any preconceived notions as to whether a fire was accidentally or deliberately lit. The name change reinforced this commitment to impartiality, as our current Code of Ethics continues to do so. Also in 1995, Wal Stern became the editor of Firepoint, a position he held until early 2016.
Over the years, the NSWAFI has regularly held educational seminars, biennial conferences, and test fire burns for research purposes. These events provide members with opportunities for training and networking that are not readily available elsewhere. Today, the Association continues to be the peak fire investigation group in NSW with a steadily increasing membership of fire investigation professionals.