Code of the District of Columbia

§ 5–417.01. Fire and arson investigation — Authority generally; authority to enter and examine; arrest and warrant powers.

(a) The Fire Chief, the Fire Marshal, and his authorized representative shall have the authority to investigate the cause, origin, and circumstances of every fire, explosion, or hazardous materials emergency in which the Fire Department has a reasonable interest. When the Fire Chief, the Fire Marshal, or his authorized representative has reason to believe that a fire, explosion, or hazardous materials incident may be the result of a violation of any law, he shall immediately take custody of and safeguard all physical evidence in connection therewith, and shall have the authority to prohibit the disturbance or removal of any material, substance, device, or utility in, or upon, any building or property where the emergency occurred until such time as the investigation of the incident is complete; provided, however, that the Metropolitan Police Department shall be the primary investigative agency in fires, explosions, and hazardous materials incidents involving critical injury, death, or assaults with intent to kill.

(b) The Fire Chief, the Fire Marshal, or his authorized representative shall have the authority at all times, in performance of the duties imposed by the provisions of this section, to enter upon or examine any area, building or premises, vehicle or other thing when there is probable cause to believe that fires or attempts to cause fires exist or which at the time are burning. He shall have the authority to enter, at any time, any building or property adjacent to that on which the fire or attempt to cause fires occurred, should he deem it necessary in the proper discharge of his duties, and may, at his discretion, take full control and custody of such buildings and premises and place such person in charge thereof as he may deem proper until his examination and investigation shall be complete.

(c) The Fire Marshal and such other personnel, as are designated in writing by the Fire Chief, shall have and exercise and are hereby invested with, the same general police powers including arrest powers as regular members of the Metropolitan Police Department for the express purpose of enforcing the fire safety laws in effect in the District of Columbia, including, but not limited to, this section. This power shall extend to any arrest, the securing of warrants pursuant to Chapter 5 of Title 23, or other lawful action necessary to permit the peaceful completion of any lawful action by the Fire Department; provided, that the Fire Marshall and other designated arson investigators, shall have successfully completed a course of training in the safe handling of firearms and the use of deadly force, and each person shall be qualified to use a firearm according to the standards applicable to officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. The employee may not carry a firearm in the course of official duties unless designated by the Fire Chief in writing as having the authority to carry a firearm. The Fire Chief shall issue written guidelines pertaining to the authority to carry firearms, the appropriate use of firearms, firearms issuance and security, the use of force including prohibitions on the use of the chokehold pursuant to subchapter XIII of Chapter 1 of this title, searches and seizures, and arrests.