Fire Marshal Inquiry
The Fire Marshal Inquiry is authorized by Michigan law, Section MCL 29.7 of the Michigan Fire Prevention Code, P. A. 207, 1941 as amended. The law, included below, explains the legal authority for the hearings, the process used, and the ramifications for non-compliance. Please review the statute and become familiar with its workings.
The Fire Marshal Inquiry is a powerful investigative tool for all investigators working fires. There is no substitute for a good thorough investigation. The Fire Marshal Inquiry is a tool to be used in the process of the investigation. The case must be worked to the fullest extent possible. When that case has been carefully developed and there comes a time when leads are exhausted, or you have to lock in witness testimony or compel reluctant witnesses, (family members or relatives) that is the time to use the inquiry process.
You must contact and discuss the use of the inquiry with the prosecutor having jurisdiction over the case. The law provides statutory immunity for those who testify in the hearing and the prosecutor must be in agreement in the use of the immunity and to whom it is granted. The Fire Marshal Inquiry process can also be used to obtain documents, records, or other evidence required for the investigation of a fire incident.
29.7 Crime or other offense committed in connection with fire; inquiry; subpoenas; oaths or affirmations; perjury; aid of circuit court; court order; contempt; self-incrimination
Sec. 7 (1) If the state fire marshal has reason to believe that a crime or other offense has been committed in connection with a fire, the state fire marshal may conduct an inquiry with relation to the fire. The inquiry shall be held at the time and place as the state fire marshal determines and the inquiry may be continued from time to time and to the place or places as the state fire marshal directs.
(2) The state fire marshal may issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses to testify at the inquiry and for the production of books, records, papers, documents and other writings or things considered material to the inquiry, may administer oaths or affirmations to witnesses and may cause testimony to be taken stenographically and transcribed and preserved. Willful false swearing by a witness shall be considered perjury.
(3) If a subpoena is disobeyed, the state fire marshal may invoke the aid of the circuit court of this state in requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of books, records, papers, and documents. A judge of the circuit court of this state having jurisdiction in the county in which the inquiry is carried on, in case of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpoena, may issue an order requiring the person to appear before the state fire marshal and to produce books, records, documents and papers if so ordered and give evidence touching the matter in question; and failure to obey the order of the court may be punished by the court as contempt of the court.
(4) A person shall not be excused from testifying or from producing books, papers, records or memoranda in an investigation, or upon a hearing, when ordered to do so by the state fire marshal, upon the grounds that the testimony or evidence, documentary or otherwise, may tend to incriminate the person or subject the person to a criminal penalty; but a person shall not be prosecuted for, or subjected to a criminal penalty for, or on account of, a transaction made or thing concerning which the person may testify or produce evidence, documentary or otherwise, before the state fire marshal. A person so testifying shall not be exempt from prosecution and punishment for perjury committed in testifying.
To request a Fire Marshal Inquiry for your investigation the following steps must be used:
1. Send a written request for Fire Marshal Inquiry on department letterhead, including the following:
Your case number Date and time of the fire Location of the fire What burned Name of owner Name of witnesses and the order you want them to testify The name and information of the prosecutor approving the hearing Location of hearing Who will serve subpoenas and the address to send the subpoenas to for service
2. A copy of your investigative report
3. Mail to:
Michigan State Police
Fire Training Unit
P.O. Box 30634
333 S. Grand Ave.
Lansing, MI 48909
4. We will contact you directly and set up the actual date and times for the hearing. Subpoenas will be produced and sent out according to the information provided. If you have any questions on this process, contact the Fire Investigation Training Unit at 517.241.0588.