On Scene with OSCR360: Used in a Fire Investigation with a Large, Midwestern Fire Department
*Note to readers – I have been doing online demos and complying with all recommended health and safety practices since the on-set of COVID-19. I hope to see you all in-person again soon!
My name is Alex (Alexandra) Myers and I work with OSCR360. My job is pretty sweet – the OSCR team travels nationwide demo-ing OSCR360 to law enforcement agencies, public safety departments, educational institutions and private agencies. We’ve experienced food, culture and history from all over the country and we’re having a blast…but best of all, we’ve had the opportunity to SEE and LEARN so much from investigators and detectives. I’ve written this blog series to give you a sneak peek at some of my most memorable stops and to share how other agencies have been using OSCR. Enjoy!
A Smokey, Wet Mess
In one large Midwestern city, fire investigators respond to multiple calls each day. One morning, our team was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join them on a call. This particular fire department was eager to use OSCR at a scene, and this was a great chance for them to test out the system.
*Side note: If you ever get the chance to ride through city streets with sirens and lights flashing, I highly recommend it.*
Prior to our arrival on-scene, first responders had extinguished the blaze and called for the fire investigation unit to do an origin and cause investigation. Eager to use OSCR360, we arrived on-scene and investigators began documenting the basement apartment in a house. At this particular scene, most of the rooms were damaged via soot or smoke. There was only one room that contained damage from the fire itself. There was however, about 6 inches of water on the floor throughout the interior of the building.
Good thing OSCR’s tripod is waterproof and easy to clean!
OSCR360 from Every Angle
Systemically, investigators started at the front of the house and worked clockwise to capture our exterior photographs (including the utilities found on the backside of the house). Then, the team moved to inside the structure. Investigators took OSCR photos in the threshold, and worked their way from the least damage to the most damage (at the front of the apartment/house). At the time, it was broad daylight and the investigators were taking photos using OSCR’s HDR mode. Lighting was not an issue. The head fire investigator was amazed at how quickly OSCR captured each photograph, and the clarity at which the system did so.
The Investigators were also pleasantly surprised to discover that OSCR’s High-Resolution camera auto-rotates. As in, if you hold the camera in a specific area, at an angle, it’s going to adjust for that angle difference. At this scene, investigators wanted to snap a 360-degree photograph of the closet in the area of origin. Due to debris that was in the way, it was difficult to access. We picked up the tripod and angled it into that room and it captured a photograph, as if it was taken vertically.
Heading back to the office, it was time to sync the photos. Within moments, we automatically had a virtual walk-through of the house, in the order that the photographs were taken. The L-Tron team worked with the agency to embed the on-scene investigator’s DSLR photographs as “points of interest” within the OSCR software. This resulted in a comprehensive case file with all of the digital evidence for this particular fire scene.
Upon completion of the investigation, we later learned that this fire was determined to be accidental. However, if this fire had been deemed an arson, the OSCR360 presentation is invaluable in the courtroom.
“[OSCR360] can fit in very tight spaces, where you might have difficulty with another camera, but OSCR’s real strength is after the investigation in the courtroom… Jurors get frustrated looking at still photos of charred walls and charred evidence and things all start to blend together…OSCR gives you that 360 approach, almost like a virtual reality bubble, so you can orient yourself in the center of the scene and look around for yourself…Within the software, you can put in hot links to other evidence.”Andrew McNeill, Director of Forensic Education at L-Tron & Retired Sheriff’s Deputy
It often felt like “luck” when I had the opportunity to bring OSCR360 to a live scene, but then it started happening more and more often. Police officers and firefighters are so busy protecting the community day-in and day-out. These calls happen all the time and are unpredictable. I am proud to represent a solution that alleviates even a small part of that burden and helps keep our communities safe.
If you’d like to see OSCR for yourself, head to https://www.l-tron.com/oscr360-inperson-and-web-demos to schedule a web demonstration. We can’t wait to meet you.
Thank you to this fire department for bringing OSCR on scene and sharing this fire investigation experience with our team.
About the Author:
Alexandra Myers: Alexandra is a member of L-Tron’s EduTechie and Solutions Team. She loves learning new things and reading about areas of interest including digital marketing, content design, business, and technology. Her motivation comes from combining marketing technique with data and customer feedback to achieve success. In her free time, Alexandra loves deal-hunting, trying new recipes, exploring her new home in Austin, TX, and taking some time to enjoy life!