Kansas fire investigators join forces with ATF

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WICHITA — After years of calling on the phone to other agencies for fire investigation information, Kansas fire investigators are turning to the Internet to fight arson crimes.

“Oh, it still helps to pick up the phone and we are still doing that,” says Wichita Fire Captain Stuart Bevis. “But this just gives us an interlocking way to look at it all.”

Bevis says they are on BATS, which is the ATF system for Bomb Arson Tracking System. Wichita Fire has been using it for a couple of years but as of July 1st, all fire departments with a certified fire investigator will bring the system online.

And it could help catch criminals who play with fire.

“Many, many examples of how this could help,” says Bevis. “We get a phone call that we heard about a fire in, say,  Coffeyville, and is that like the one you guys had in West Wichita? I could make a phone call to the state fire marshal or call Coffeyville. But if they are in BATS, I can look up a date and see, maybe did they have a fire in Coffeyville? And what were the circumstances?”

Bevis says another advantage to having a system for all fire investigators to see, is information sharing on an administrative level.

“Think about it,” explains Bevis. “For fires in other cities, I was seeing car fires and how they did reports and some of the things that they were noting helped us make some administrative changes.”

Better tracking. Better information sharing. Bevis says it will give investigators a chance to see what everyone else is doing, and maybe catch some criminals.

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