WB man aids Detroit arson investigators

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 27, 2013


WEST BLOOMFIELD — When 15 Detroit arson investigators were unable to foot the bill for a three-day seminar in Florida, a West Bloomfield man involved in writing a fire and explosion investigation guideline book brought the Sunshine State to them last summer.

Stuart Sklar, a shareholder at Farmington Hills-based Fabian, Sklar & King P.C., which specializes in fire injury, explosion and property damage claims, donated resources and the handbook, “NFPA 921:  Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations,” to the arson investigators after finding out they did not have the resources to become certified fire and explosion investigators.

“(Sklar) brought the Florida seminar to Detroit so we could attend,” Lt. James Hill-Harris, a Detroit arson investigator, told the Beacon recently. “We are very appreciative of all of his efforts.”

The training session was held at a mega-station — which houses police and fire departments — in Detroit.

Arson investigators interested in becoming certified instructors were also flown out to Florida for training a week later.

Hill-Harris said Detroit has one of the worst arson problems in the country, and the members of the Detroit Fire Department’s Arson Section — who are responsible for determining the cause of blazes throughout the city — lacked resources for training and certifications to carry out their jobs.

As a result of the training and certification, layoffs were rescinded, and the department is now looking to hire more investigators for Detroit, according to a press release.

Hill-Harris said he met Sklar originally during a training session at Oakland Community College’s Auburn Hills campus, where Sklar offered to donate guideline books to the 15 arson investigators.

Hill-Harris said his office did not have a current book, and the whole office shared an old one.

“He (Sklar) came up and said to me directly, ‘Do you mind if I bring some (more books) in for you?’” Hill-Harris said.

Hill-Harris said the “kind gesture” totaled to about $1,500, with each book valued at about $100.

Afterward, Sklar asked Hill-Harris if his team would be interested in having a presentation on fire training; at the time of the training program, seven investigators were facing layoffs, according to the press release.

“It was totally unexpected,” Hill-Harris said. “There is no other place dealing with an arson problem like the city of Detroit. He did one of the greatest things in the state of Michigan to combat arson, because he armed the arson investigators.”

Sklar said the training, which took place around the end of July or beginning of August, was to equip the arson investigators with world-class tools to do their jobs more efficiently.

“They are very dedicated and inspiring investigators in incredibly difficult jobs,” Sklar said. “Given the financial situation of the city, they don’t get the financial support they need, and I thought giving them the opportunity to get world-class training and taking the certification exam was the least that I could do.”

The value of his generosity is between $20,000 and $30,000, which covered travel, hotel, training and other expenses.

The costs were a drop in the bucket in comparison to the arson investigators’ dedication, Sklar said.

“We were all very moved by them because they are very dedicated and they were very devoted to what they do, in light of difficult circumstances,” Sklar said.