In Memory of Kim James Yates
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Global Leaders in Fire Investigation®

In Memory of Kim James Yates

September 20, 1962 – September 5, 2015
President, South Africa Chapter

While a sudden event on Saturday the 5th of September 2015 brought an end to the life of one of South Africa’s foremost fire investigators, we remember his contribution to the fire investigation community both locally and internationally.

Kim was a founding member and the first President of the South African Chapter of the IAAI (Chapter 66) and received the Chapter Charter during the Annual General Meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2002. After this he played a leading role in introducing the IAAI-CFI programme to South Africa with the assistance of Past President Kirk Hankins and was one of the first investigators to be certified in South Africa.

Up until the time of his untimely passing, he served on the Nominating Committee of the IAAI and was honoured to receive the 2015 James L. Smith Outstanding Chapter Award on behalf of the membership of the South African Chapter.

His vision of an African Chapter of the IAAI was shared with Past President Peter Mansi and was eventually realised during the 2014 AGM of the South African Chapter.

Apart from being a certified fire investigator with the IAAI, Kim was also accredited as a forensic practitioner specialising in fire investigation by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences in the United Kingdom.

- Andre De Beer

All through our lives we are blessed by God through the people that He provides in our lives.The value that some of those people add to our life is immeasurable.So too was the blessing I knew as Kim Yates.I was blessed to know Kim for nearly two decades.In that time, his passion for his profession was only exceeded by his love for family, friends and life.This gentle giant taught me many things about fire investigations, life, and priorities.

In the time that I knew Kim, and his closest friend and business partner Andre De Beer, he invited me down to South Africa or Botswana on no less than 6 occasions to speak and present at various fire investigation conferences.Forever the consummate hosts, Kim and Andre always found time to mix relaxation with a little bit of business.Though it sounds trite, and I don’t know how they did it, every trip to spend time with Kim, Andre, and their families, was truly a trip of a lifetime.Some of my most cherished memories were sitting out in the bush, around the braai at night, solving all the problems of fire investigations, life, and our teenagers.The days were spent traveling through the bush watching (and feeling as if we were intruding on God’s wonders) the wildlife of Africa.To be able to share that humbling experience with my family, along with Kim’s and Andre’s families, was just one of a long lists of blessings provided by my friend that I will always treasure.

My first and most vivid memory of Kim was when we first met in Colorado and I was able to introduce Kim and Andre to snow.Their fascination with being able to see snow for the first time, and my opportunity to see it through their eyes, was refreshing.That fascination waned however; when in subsequent visits, I was able to take Kim up into the high country for a winter hike.I recall Kim going off trail and running (almost uncontrollably) down the fall line of the mountain.Traveling through chest deep powder, Kim emerged resembling the abominable snowman.With that brisk and intimate encounter with the snow, it didn’t take him long before he grew weary of snow and recognized it as “that white sh&#%” that all of us in these colder climates have referred to it as on occasion.

During that first visit, I saw that gentle giant double over in laughter with tears flowing down his cheeks as he discovered, for the first time, a coonskin cap at one of the tourist shops that we were always on the lookout for whenever he came to the states.So “tickled” with his discovery; on my first invitation to South Africa, he enlisted my assistance in purchasing six coonskin caps for his fly fishing team to wear during fishing competitions in South Africa.I have pictures of me wearing the cap in South Africa with quizzical looks cast by his friends that were in attendance.He so enjoyed a good laugh.

Before our final visit together he called and asked me to set up a dinner at a local theme restaurant (Dick’s Last Resort) in Chicago, but required I not tell Andre of the “theme.”He wished it to be a surprise as he was looking forward to the look on his best friend’s face.His joy was palpable.At the other end of the scale that same joy was present on that final trip while he attended my granddaughter’s first birthday party.We shared stories of the love of grandkids, and he talked with a sparkle in his eyes as he spoke of his wife Ingrid’s granddaughter and how he was able to bond so closely with that little girl.

I miss my friend, his laughter, his bear hugs when we met and when we parted ways (bear hugs I could never duplicate even though I stood on my toes to try) and the blessing that was Kim Yates.This is not farewell my friend, but merely go well and God be with you, until we meet again.

- Bob Toth

The fire service has suffered a tremendous loss with the sudden, unexpected and tragic death of Kim Yates.When you mention the name Kim Yates, an image of a kind, gentle giant with a penchant for practical jokes comes to mind.I had the privilege of meeting Kim at a seminar approximately 20 years ago and a true friendship and admiration ensued over the years.Kim was a man of great knowledge and integrity.He had a rare willingness to share his knowledge and expertise with others in the fire community in the hopes of making each and every life he touched a little richer.Kim worked tirelessly to promote and expand the South Africa Chapter of the IAAI.

Kim had many passions in life – Hexagon Fire Investigation, his motorcycle, his motorcycle family and his humanitarian efforts.But above all else, Kim’s love for his family and friends, especially his partner and surrogate brother, Andre de Beer, was unparalleled.When you think of Kim, I hope you conjure up an image of a gentle giant, a man of honesty and integrity.I know I will.Rest in peace, dear friend.

- Jamie Novak