The Arson Counter/Terrorism Section (ACTS) is dedicated to providing professional quality investigation services to meet the needs of the citizens of Los Angeles. We achieve this by creating an atmosphere encouraging innovation, professional development, and diversity.
ACTS is comprised of a team of experienced investigators who are highly trained in various types of fire and arson investigation, scene documentation, evidence collection, and interviewing. Our experienced members serve as fire investigators and are also sworn law enforcement officers with arresting powers. ACTS Investigators work closely with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division & Robbery-Homicide, Los Angeles County District Attorney, Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (A.T.F.), California Highway Patrol (C.H.P.), U.S. Marshalls, U.S. Attorney’s office, D.A. Investigators, State Police, Port Police, LA School P.D. and private investigators to name a few.
All investigators carry a weapon and regularly receive law enforcement tactical training and use of force training through the Los Angeles Police Department.
The proud members of the Los Angeles Fire Department Arson Counter-Terrorism Section are working harder than ever to ensure that those responsible for committing the crime of arson are apprehended and prosecuted.
The Arson Section was formed in 1918 by Chief Engineer Archibald J. Eley. Lt. Eugene Enos was the first Arson Investigator; the Fire Commission approved his appointment on January 18, 1918. From its inception, Investigators formed what was known as the “Arson Squad.” Much like the fire service, the Arson Section has evolved throughout the years. The section initially operated with three 24-hour A-units (six Investigators working each shift). Eventually, one of the arson units was shut down, and the six investigators were placed on special duty.
In its current state, the section is now known as the Arson Counter-Terrorism Section (ACTS) under the umbrella of Homeland Security Division. Today ACTS staffing comprises a Battalion Chief, Captain II, Captain I, 19 investigators, and a civilian forensic photographer. The section is divided into two operational sections: special duty Investigators who work a 4/10 schedule and operate out of the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center, and A-unit 1, the L.A.F.D.’s only 24-hour arson unit, which responds from Fire Station 17.
ACTS has a long-running history of utilizing an accelerant detection canine at fire scenes. Blue has been with the section since 2015; he is the fourth accelerant detection canine assigned to ACTS. When deployed, Blue will notify his handler when an accelerant is detected, known as an “alert.” An accelerant detection canine must be able to “scent-discriminate” at a fire scene by ignoring all of the other smells. Once Blue has indicated a spot, a debris sample can be taken and sent to the lab for analysis and possible identification. Blue enables investigators to save time by covering the fire scene more quickly than humans.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has seen a recent rise in fire-related incidents in the last few years. Fire resources responded to 20,533 fire incidents in 2019 and 27,518 fire incidents in 2020. That number significantly increased in 2021 when they responded to 34,686 fire-related incidents. With the increase in fires, we have also seen arrests and fatalities rise. In 2021 the ACTS made 181 arrests; the individuals arrested were responsible for over 260 fires. ACTS investigators also responded to 32 fatality fires in 2021.
We like to thank Chief Hissong for his continued support of our efforts to enhance the Arson Section workplace. Luckily, there are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who transform a yellow spot into the sun with the help of their art and intelligence. Rosie Tos is one of them. A very special thanks and gratitude goes out to Rosie for her creative vision of the Arson Counter-Terrorism Section.
We encourage L.A.F.D. members to stop by the arson office and see our mural firsthand.