Stephen Rinaldi, Senior Fire & Life Safety Coordinator for Los Alamos Fire Department shows the National Fire Protection Association’s 921 code book for investigations of fire and explosion he will be helping to revise. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Fire Department’s Senior Fire & Life Safety Coordinator Stephen Rinaldi became a firefighter in the early 90s. His father, brother and nephews were all firefighters and Rinaldi has since spent more than 20 years in public safety or related fields.
Rinaldi was recently appointed to serve on a technical committee tasked with the revision of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations. He says the process to serve on NFPA’s committees is competitive with dozens of applications submitted each year by fire investigators and subject matter experts internationally.
The NFPA technical committees are the principal consensus bodies responsible for developing and updating all NFPA guides, standards and codes, which are revised and updated every three to five years. The rigorous process of updating NFPA standards involves extensive research, experience and technical expertise from committee members, along with several opportunities for public input and review. It can take as long as two years to complete.
Technical committees are appointed by the NFPA Standards Council and typically consist of no more than 30 voting members representing a balance of interests. Appointment to a technical committee is based on such factors as technical expertise, professional standing, commitment to public safety, and the ability to bring to the table the point of view of a category of interested people or groups.
Rinaldi has been active in promoting fire and life safety throughout his career and found out early on that he has a passion for fire investigation. He says he enjoys the unique challenge of sifting through fire scenes.
“It’s a mix between searching through something that’s been totally destroyed and using your skills to reconstruct the scene to determine what actually caused a fire,” he said. “It’s semi archaeology.”
In Los Alamos County, because of the adopted fire code, all fires both throughout the County and at Los Alamos National Laboratory must be investigated. Eleven LAFD firefighters are also trained to investigate fires with an average of three on each shift.
Rinaldi is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and joined Los Alamos County in 2015. He currently serves as a board member of the New Mexico International Association of Arson Investigators and helps organize state conferences that promote on-going opportunities for training, continuous improvement of processes and procedures, and leadership in the field of Fire & Life Safety.