ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Arson investigator takes over when flames are extinguished

020215-B-FF-ItsMyJob.jpg
Chad Stangeland is the arson investigator for the Moorhead Fire Department. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Moorhead - The fire department isn’t done doing its job even after a fire is put out.
Chad Stangeland, the Moorhead Fire Department’s assistant chief, is an arson investigator and his job is to find out if a fire was an accident or if there was a more sinister motive behind it.
A majority of fires are not arson and in the last year the department only ruled two fires arson.
Every fire is investigated, though, and if arson is suspected, Stangeland’s job is to work with police to figure out who, how and why the fire was started.
If there are more complicated circumstances, the department can request assistance from the state fire marshal’s office.
Stangeland, a West Fargo resident, has worked for the Moorhead Fire Department since 1992. When he was promoted to assistant chief in 2012, he took over the role of arson investigator. The department’s chief, Rich Duysen, previously held the position of arson investigator.
How did you become the department’s arson investigator?
“I think it more fell into my lap. It came along with the responsibility of being promoted into that position. It’s not your typical firefighter responsibility.
What’s the most interesting aspect of being an arson investigator?
The most interesting part of the job is it’s different than normal firefighting. It’s getting to know fire behavior and investigating and interviewing people. You look at needing to know the social and psychological behaviors of people along with if it is a normal fire and not an arson. You have to be empathetic of the situation. A majority of fires are not arson. Most of them are accidental, so you got to be empathetic of whoever had the fire.
What are some misconceptions about arson?
One of the biggest ones is that you can get away with it. There’s a lot of clues left behind. It’s a misconception that people have that they are going to clear the crime scene of evidence.
The truth is people leave behind a lot of clues, so we can determine what happened.
What training do you go through to be an arson investigator?
You end up getting into more detailed info on fire behavior and fire characteristics. That way, when you go into a building that was on fire you can determine how that fire started and what was the ignition, how it spread.
Is there any ongoing training associated with this job?
I do try to because it’s not like we do (arson) investigations every day, so I do try to attend one arson investigation conference each year to hear from arson experts and to hear some of that firsthand knowledge.

Related Topics: MOORHEADFIRES
What To Read Next
Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber event gathered experts in manufacturing, finance, agriculture, technology, health care and energy.
Building permits recently filed in Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth.
Exclusive
Owners Tim and Elaine Gaslin say a changing market and the 11th Street underpass project prompted them to close their physical location, but they'll still sell CDs and DVDs online.
John Bultman recently received notice from the city of Fargo that the business he has operated for 42 years violates city ordinances and he was given until March 30 to shut down.