Fire, Arson and Explosion Research Could Save Lives, Prove Innocence

Published on August 11, 2020

What started as an internship that sparked his interest in college, has turned into a lifelong career for Greg Gorbett, of trying to figure out why and how something happened, and using it to keep people safe. 

“I always enjoyed using science and physics in solving puzzles/riddles. So, when I had done an internship in college I realized that this is the perfect job using those skills,” said Gorbett.

The job is teaching Fire, Arson and Explosion at EKU, and working as an investigator within his own company. 

Gorbett has been a professor at Eastern Kentucky University in the Fire, Arson, and Explosion program for more than 12 years. The program is one of only three in the nation dedicated to preparing students to investigate fires and explosions along with their causes. Students travel from thousands of miles away to come to EKU to learn in the program.

Gorbett has been a fire and explosion investigator for almost 20 years. When not teaching at EKU, he remains active in the field with his own fire and explosion investigation company. He is also a member of multiple fire investigation and forensic science committees. 

“The job is ultimately to save lives and property from future fires and explosions,” said Gorbett.

Greg Gorbett

Discover published an article detailing the work Gorbett and his colleagues do at EKU titled “Up In Smoke” by Douglas Starr. The article went in depth about dozens of arson myths that fire researchers have disproved in recent years and the American courts lack of action to these recent findings. 

“I shudder to think how many wrongful convictions there are,” said Richard Roby, the President of Combustion Science and Engineering, a firm dedicated to fire protection engineering in Columbia, Maryland.

However, Gorbett and other fire investigators have not let this diminish their enthusiasm for the work they do. With help from the National Fire Prevention Association, some courts and other law enforcement agencies have made the NFPA’s standards and procedures the same as their own.

As interest spikes in what is a very small and unusual field of study, Gorbett is optimistic about the future, but he knows it will not be an easy feat.

“We’re all going to have to work harder to get better data to make a change,” he said.

At the end of the day, Gorbett is looking at the bigger picture, how to have a safe community. 

“I really just enjoy figuring out what caused a fire or explosion, and then influencing change to prevent that event from occurring again,” he said.