Online Students On the Frontline

Michael Charles inspects damage in EKU Burn Lab

It’s highly unlikely Michael Charles will investigate a fire scene under similar conditions ever again.

The Trinidad native, along with several other students enrolled in EKU’s College of Justice & Safety Fire and Explosion Scene Analysis course, weathered below-freezing temperatures and snow as they poked through the remains of a controlled fire scene.

After 14 years of service, Charles resigned from the state fire service and went to work for a national oil company as a senior fire officer.  Now, he wants to be an arson investigator.  “Arson is a serious problem in Trinidad,” he said.  “It really can really impact the economy of our country.” 

Burn cells were staged to approximate the furniture, appliances and materials found in living rooms, bed rooms, dorm rooms and a woodworking shop.

Their goal was to photograph and collect evidence as part of a practical exercise involving fire investigation and prepare a written report detailing the origin and cause of the fire.

Once they have finished their scene examination, they will present their findings before the instructor of record to be evaluated for properly applied classroom knowledge of fire investigation in the field.

Another sleuth in the exercise, Mary Maurath is a paramedic and firefighter for the city of Huber Heights, OH.  Maurath already holds a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati but like Charles, she wants to be an arson investigator.  “I like solving mysteries,” she said.  “I’m curious.  I like being a detective, but I don’t want to be a cop.”

Class member Tom Goss and his wife Roselind Young from Greenville, SC want to start their own firm in fire protection engineering.  Goss has worked 20 years in the fire protection industry and currently works for an architectural and construction company.  “This type of program is great for people in the construction industry” said Goss.  Young, also an EKU Fire and Safety Engineering student, accompanied her husband to EKU to witness the exercise firsthand. “We want to get involved in the fire protection systems field,” she said.

Another student in the exercise, Samuel Hartsook is a 26 year-old volunteer firefighter and an E-5 ranked aviation firefighter for the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, VA.  He has taken online fire science courses through Kaplan University but enrolled in the Fire, Arson & Explosion Investigation program at EKU because of the reputation of the program.  “The wife of my fire chief in Knoxville is a graduate of EKU,” he said.  “She told me a lot about the quality of the program.  The instructors here not only have experience as firefighters, they have written all the textbooks we, and everyone else around the country use.  That and the accreditation here are unbeatable.”

Want to know what the students had to say? Click here!

Above: Samuel Hartsook photographs burn lab to document fire patterns.

Above: Mary Maurath and Brandon Burch record data from burn models.

Above: Tom Goss inspects burn lab damage.

Published on February 17, 2016