Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise

A commentary by Oleksandr Shmereho, Head of the Department of Life Safety Research, Fire and Electrical Engineering Research, on the current state and features of fire engineering research in Ukraine

A commentary by Oleksandr Shmereho, Head of the Department of Life Safety Research, Fire and Electrical Engineering Research, on the current state and features of fire engineering research in Ukraine
05 February 2021

Hundreds of thousands of fires occur in Ukraine every year. However, it is not enough to extinguish the flame; there is still a need to establish the cause of the fire. Experts of the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise carry out such studies.

Oleksandr Shmereho, Head of the Life Safety Research, Fire and Electrical Engineering Research Department at the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, spoke in an interview with one of the leading Ukrainian TV channels about the current state and peculiarities of conducting fire-technical types of research.

Fire technical examination is one of the most difficult types of research, because specialists in this field must have knowledge in the field of physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, electrical engineering, materials science, features of firefighting. In addition, specialists work in conditions when it is virtually impossible to restore the initial state of the object on which the fire broke out.

As the expert noted: “If the majority of experts work with material that has trace information or some changes in relation to the initial state, then in the fire examination in most cases we have practically a site of fire”.

The task of the fire-technical examination is in certain circumstances and the mechanism of the fire, the study of the fire condition and the compliance of the facility with regulatory standards.

According to Oleksandr Shmereho, the scope of this examination is constantly increasing, because new questions arise, to which the examination has the opportunity to provide answers and establish the facts. Accordingly, scientific and technological progress in Ukraine is developing.

An examination is appointed in those attacks when there are victims, as a result of which criminal proceedings are opened. However, the process of appointing an examination can take up to six months, due to which it becomes difficult to establish the actual cause of the fire, because the expert does not have all the necessary data. In addition, more and more often the cause of a fire is indicated by the electrical wiring ignition, even before the examination.

“It’s already a component of the trend of working on the scene fire, so it’s easier and in most cases suits everyone. The investigation does not need to understand whether arson was committed. Having documents on hand that there was a short circuit of conducting, they do not do it. Moreover, criminal proceedings are not even registered in order to fully understand the circumstances”, Oleksandr Shmereho points out.

According to the expert, an important factor in most fires is non-compliance with regulations. In Ukraine, the requirements for fire safety are increasing every year; in some cases, this is unreasonable. As a result, fire safety standards are not being met in the facilities.

“It all comes down to the fact that it is possible to resolve these issues “by agreement” and all parties to this process remain satisfied. Take, for example, the latest horrific case of death in a nursing home in Kharkiv. Of course, there was a room that did not meet the requirements, it is obvious! However, how did it happen that no one checked it… Here the state bodies should play their role, which should monitor similar objects.

Today, after this terrible event, all the houses where the elderly are located are being checked. However, we do not have mechanisms to resolve the situation, in cases where they do not meet any standards, because one cannot just leave people on the street. There should be government projects that would ensure fire safety, including for people who need care and special support”, said Oleksandr Shmereho.

The way to reduce such cases lies in the well-functioning and coordinated work of supervision and government bodies and they will identify facts of violation of fire safety standards in advance. In addition, one can learn from the experience of developed countries and introduce a property insurance system:

“In general, unfortunately, it is impossible to completely avoid fires, but one can reduce the number of it. To do this, a set of measures is needed to ensure the timely arrival of fire brigades, to pay special attention to high-rise buildings. Do not allow the commissioning of facilities that do not comply with fire regulations. Introduce an insurance system as well. Then the mechanism of self-regulation will work - the less involved in the control of fire control and automation, personnel - the more one need to pay the insurance premium and vice versa. These and other points are generally spelled out in the fire safety rules of Ukraine, and if they are followed, the probability of a fire can be significantly reduced,” Oleksandr Shmereho summed up.

Київський науково-дослідний інститут судових експертиз

Директор: Рувін Олександр

Поштова адреса: 03057, м. Київ, вул. Смоленська, 6

Kyiv Research Institute of Forensic Expertise

Director: Ruvin Oleksandr

Mailling address: 03057, City of Kyiv Smolenska Street, 6