Recently, Guardian Group’s Property & Casualty experts were called to the scene of a restaurant fire in Central California. Our fire and construction forensics specialists were asked to determine the true cause and origin of the blaze and its ensuing destruction. While in many cases there may be a preliminary suspicion or identification of arson, carriers, TPAs and adjusters require more thorough forensic investigation, so they can assess their obligations equipped with a more complete and reliable set of facts.
During Guardian Group’s physical investigation of the property, many observations were made. Relying upon our construction and engineering background, an examination of the roof, as well as the interior ceilings and walls – all of the areas where you’d normally expect to see fire in a restaurant – the kitchen, the appliances, the utility closet – the inspection revealed that these were all relatively unscathed. But the following represents just a partial listing of those things the greater inspection uncovered: electrical utility and wires showed no signs of arcing or fault, fresh cigarette butts found just adjacent to the building, and police records revealed a similar fire was started 3 days later at a nearby facility.
Since the building was vacant at the time of the fire and the property’s cameras were non-operational, one important piece of business was to rule out lightning as a contributing factor.
A quick check of the Lightning Strike report among centralized weather data enabled this possibility to be eliminated.
Additionally, according to the insured, human presence was observed prior to the fire. These findings, taken together with the arson report, compiled by the fire department, indicated that gasoline was a contributing material to the flame spread. This enabled our experts to prepare a concise, technical yet easy to read origin and cause report on behalf of the insurance carrier. The cause, with a professional degree of certainty: human influence.
Guardian Group’s client on this particular claim, a prominent third-party administrator working on behalf of a national insurance company, thanked us for our speed and diligence. The reported relief at having finally found a consultant who knows fire, construction and engineering forensics “inside and out.”