Fire investigators at the scene near the ignition point of Wednesday's Peregian Beach bushfire. Photo: Lachie Millard
Fire investigators at the scene near the ignition point of Wednesday's Peregian Beach bushfire. Photo: Lachie Millard Lachie Millard

Why cause of Peregian fire is 'harder to solve than murder'

>> IN PICTURES: 40 photos inside horror Peregian bushfire scene

FORECASTS for a hotter, dryer summer have firefighters gearing up for the worst after an early, active start to the fire season.

How and where fires started were two questions fire service inspector and investigator Kent Mayne said were arguably more difficult to determine than most murder scenes.

He said the task was made more difficult by the fact fires consumed much of the evidence and because the act of fighting a fire could eliminate vital clues.

Fire investigators were today at the scene of the second Peregian fire in two months to put homes at risk.

Their task is involved and complex and potentially may take considerable time.

Mr Mayne holds a graduate certificate in fire investigation.

He was drawn to the discipline because of his fascination with fires and fire science.

He headed operations at the first Peregian fire and on Wednesday acted as incident controller for the latest blaze.

"No two are the same," he said.

The need to investigate is determined by the fire size, information from first responders, the dollar value of damage, whether a death or injury has resulted and whether there are similar recent incidents.

Before attending the scene, Mr Mayne said data was collected on all potential contributing facts.

They included the weather both at the time and leading up to the fire, location and time of day as well as interviews with witnesses and those who fought the fire.

"We collect information that may help paint a picture of where and how the fire occurred," he said.

"These are the foundations of the investigation.

"We then collect physical data at the scene and observe fire patterns.

"If there was a liquid accelerant (involved) it leaves a certain pattern.

"The rate of fire development and how it spreads can lead you to the area of origin."

What investigators can't do is go into an investigation thinking they know what happened.

"You need to be open minded," Mr Mayne said.

"The activity of the fire and how it was extinguished can take away evidence."

He said unlike many murder scenes, a fire represented a completely different and difficult environment in which to investigate because it was not contained.

He said data collection and analysis allowed investigators to develop a story or theory which required rigorous testing.

"Fire investigators are on the scene (of the Peregian fire) today," Mr Mayne said.

"You never know how long it could take.

"Something could really stand out.

"On other occasions it can take a long, long time."