An Overview of Arson Investigation
Arson Investigations involve the study of fire-damaged physical evidence and crime scenes to detect arson, which is the crime of setting a fire for an unlawful or improper purpose. The techniques involved in arson investigations require a basic understanding of the chemistry of explosives. In addition, an investigator must understand the materials used in the formation of explosives. Also, they need to understand the various ways in which explosives are interrelated and initiated.
Arson investigations, also known as fire investigations, are the investigation and analysis of fire-related incidents. Detectives use a variety of forensic analysis methods, crime scene investigation techniques, and chemical analysis to evaluate a fire scene.
After firefighters or firemen extinguish a fire, a fire investigation seeks to determine the cause of the fire or explosion. This type of crime is one of the most common and most expensive crimes committed. Private investigators with experience as a fireman or fire marshals may specialize in conducting this type of investigation.
Private investigators may engage in conducting actual fire investigations, insurance fraud investigations, or forensic investigations.
Arson Investigation Resources
The following are websites that provide additional information on fire investigations.
International Association of Arson Investigators – The IAAI is an international organization of fire professionals committed to suppressing the crime of arson through high-quality fire investigations. Their website has information on how to become a member of the organization. Also, you’ll find information on training, certifications, and continuing education. Plus, they have helpful information on how to find a job.
Mesothelioma Web – Firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure because of its frequent use in older structures. Asbestos can linger in the air even after a fire has been extinguished. Mesothelioma Web has been one of the most comprehensive sites on asbestos and mesothelioma for over ten years. They provide information and support to people who have been exposed to asbestos.
National Fire Protection Association – The NFPA is the world’s leading advocate of fire prevention and is an authoritative source on public safety. Visit their website to find information on Codes and Standards, news and research, training resources and more.
U.S. Fire Administration – The United States Fire Administration is part of the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency. They provide training and educational opportunities for the Fire Service and allied organizations. Also available are fire statistics, public fire education campaign materials, and information on funding opportunities. Federal travelers will find a directory of approved, fire-safe hotels, and information on home fire safety.
Government Resources for Investigating Arson
- The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
- NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory
- U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
Reference Books for Investigating Fires and Possible Arson
Whether you are an experienced investigator, or just want to offer the service to your clients, the following books will provide you with helpful information and reference materials such as:
- How to become an arson investigator or fire investigator
- Where to get training and continuing education
- Using forensic science and crime scene investigation techniques
- How to find a job
- How to determine the cause and origin of a fire
- Most commonly used tools and equipment
- How to conduct a chemical analysis of physical evidence and analyze the results
Practical Fire and Arson Investigation: Second Edition
Billions of dollars in property damage are caused by arson each year. In this book, the author provides compelling statistics on the threat of incendiary acts. In addition, he provides practical crime scene investigation methods, forensic science information, and advice for investigating these types of crimes. Plus, the
This is the second edition of the book and it has been significantly updated from the first edition, with more than 40$ in new material added. New topics covered in this book include:
- How to use forensic science investigation methods to determine the origin and cause of a fire
- Eliminating accidental fire causes, investigating fatal fires and vehicular fires, and documenting the fire/crime scene
- How to take fire scene photography using
- The importance of physical evidence preservation and the analysis in civil litigation of liability and product defects
Learn more, read reviews, and buy the book:
Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction (3rd Edition) (Fire Investigation I & II)
This book talks about such topics as physical evidence and
Blaze: The Forensics of Fire
This book, written by a journalist and television writer, looks at fire investigators and the investigations they conduct. Mainly, the book is based on both research and interviews with fire detectives to help the reader understand the craft. The author explains how fires are examined and goes in-depth on a large fire at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, which killed over 80 people.
Combating Arson-For-Profit: Advanced Techniques for Investigators
The second edition explains how to prepare and present a case after the investigation is complete. The book also includes a companion disk with forms, illustrations, and flowcharts, which are helpful to the beginning fire detective. The information in this book provides the reader with the knowledge necessary to conduct effective investigations into individuals and groups who attempt to profit from the act. The book is useful to investigators fire science professionals, forensic science and criminal justice instructors, criminal prosecutors, defense counsels, judicial officials, and insurance investigators.
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