New technology designed to improve investigations for Springfield Fire Department

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:24 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - New technology will change how the Springfield Fire Department completes its investigations.

It’s called Matterport, and it was donated to the fire department a little less than a year ago. The technology allows fire marshals to go back into a scene through 3D renderings and virtual reality.

Matterport consists of a camera that swivels 360 degrees, taking photos to turn into those 3D renderings of a house. These 3D images allow firefighters to look back at the scene at any time throughout their investigation, no matter how long ago it may have been.

Springfield Fire Marshal Mark Phillips says it takes about 30-45 minutes to fully photograph the entire scene.

”With this, we do one scan and it covers the floor to the ceiling. So if we miss something, we can always go back through our rendering of this,” Phillips says.

Phillips says it’s used for the more severe fires.

“[For] anything that somebody was hurt or a criminal investigation, we’ll bring this out,” Phillips says.

Fire marshals have limited time to investigate after a fire. Once the scene is cleared and the home is turned back over to the owner, the fire department can’t go inside again without a search warrant.

This technology changes that.

“Look at anything we may have missed,” Phillips says. “We can look at walls, smoke patterns, any second theories we might have. We can go back and look at it.”

Previously, the fire department took photos of the scene to rely on for their investigation. This provides more detail, like wall textures and char marks.

Phillips says it can make a huge difference if an investigation goes to trial, allowing jurors to use the software to see the scene for themselves.

“They can actually walk through the fire scene and we can point things out,” Phillips says. “Certain things we look at and see. Whereas a 2D photo, you have to think well this is the south wall, the east wall. You kind of have to put it together in your brain. Whereas this, there’s no doubt. You’re going to see everything. It’s like you’re in the house.”

It also preserves the fire scene as is, preventing any evidence from being destroyed.

“Somebody could’ve gotten in there while we’ve been gone and tampered with something and then that usually gets thrown out in court,” Phillips says.

Phillips says the new technology is a tool they can use in training, which could help firefighters and investigators improve at their jobs.

“We can take our rookies that have never seen a house fire, never been inside of a house fire, into burned out houses,” Phillips says. “We can show them the danger areas. We can show them where these fires started. We can show them how origin and cause works.”

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