Yukon fire officials are brushing up on their investigative skills through an investigative course that is the first of its kind in the Yukon.
Whitehorse's Golden Horn Fire Hall is home to the course, where crews have built a tiny neighbourhood in the parking lot, and a few furnished, decorated makeshift buildings.
"We have all the details that you would have there in a normal household," says instructor Mike Schmidt. "Pots on the stove, salt and pepper shaker on the table, candles, baseboard heaters, all those things that would be in a normal household."
The building are set on fire, put out—and then the real work begins.
"In this particular course, it's a fire investigator level 2 course," says James Paterson, deputy fire marshal for the Yukon. "We've got some very high-level instructors here...we're hoping to gain a lot of information from these guys on how to do a really precise fire investigation"
Participants in the course look for answers by sifting through ashes from the previous burn.
"It's sort of like riding a bike," says Schmidt. "I can tell you how to ride a bike in a classroom, but until you actually get out on the bike and pedal... this is a real-life scenario."
He says having skilled investigators ultimately means safer homes.
"If you had 25 electric stoves across the Yukon and B.C. that are causing fires, and that investigation is done properly, that accounts for maybe a recall, and now they're taken off the market," he says. "And, that's part of public safety, part of fire prevention."
Fire investigator courses are high-level training in a high-stakes business. Analysis from inspectors is crucial in determining complex cases that could include arson and even murder.
It's tough work, says Paterson, and it's getting tougher.
"These days, again, the majority of the products in our houses are made with hydrocarbons and so they burn faster and they burn hotter," he says. "So, absolutely, our techniques to fight the fire have to change a little bit as well, but certainly the investigation becomes a lot more challenging with things that burn hotter."
The two-day course concludes Tuesday evening.