Fire and UniA historic agreement has been signed that could lead to pioneering research in the field of fire investigation and help train a future generation of arson experts.

The deal between Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the University of Portsmouth will see fire officers and academics work together to develop advanced forensic and analytic skills.

This partnership between the fire service and university, which is the first of its kind in the UK, was signed today (Aug 19).

Assistant Chief Officer Andy Bowers said: “This is a hugely exciting partnership that will benefit Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the university. Combining our expertise and experience with academia will promote truly pioneering work.

“We are proud to commit to developing students and work with them on projects that may have an impact on the way we do things.

“This agreement shows that both organisations are at the heart of the community and dedicated to work that will help improve public safety.”

Arson Task Force Station Manager Damian Watts said: “We will be giving invaluable first-hand experience to students who could one day end up being the backbone of the investigation industry.”

The agreement builds on the successful collaboration between the university’s Institute of Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS) and the Fire and Rescue Service during the past two years. 

Students have been attending 12-week placements and more are planned.

However, one student Rosie Grant will be with the team for a year looking at forensic contamination of fire scenes.

In addition to the input into research projects fire investigation officers will also be lecturing as part of the institute’s undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Students will also get the chance to put their theories into practice at real fire scenes and gain an insight from the expertise of the one of the country’s best Arson Task Force teams.

This agreement follows the institute’s long-standing and award-winning relationship with Hampshire Constabulary.

University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Galbraith, said: “This is an important agreement for the university. It will further strengthen our research in fire investigation techniques and forensic analysis and will enhance the educational experience of our students. 

“Our students will benefit significantly from direct exposure to fire officers’ expertise within their programmes of study.

“This latest agreement with the fire and rescue service, when considered alongside our existing relationship with Hampshire Constabulary, opens up exciting new opportunities arising from all three organisations working in partnership.”