Arson Investigation involves 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 in the chemistry of explosives, the materials used in the formation of explosives, and the various ways in which explosives are interrelated and initiated.
Arson investigation, also known as fire investigation, is 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 is launched 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 marshal may specialize in conducting this type of investigations.
Private investigators may engage in conducting actual fire investigations, insurance fraud investigations, or forensic investigations.
Arson Investigation Resources
Following are websites that provide additional information on fire investigations.
- Fire Investigators Dictionary – The official terms and definitions as defined in the 1995 Edition of NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigation
- International Association of Arson Investigators Educational Foundation – Formed in 1989 for the purpose of securing a permanent building to serve as International headquarters for the Association. Over the years, the Foundation has expanded and grown into a number of different areas. The Foundation mission statement now reflects this growth.
- International Association of Fire Fighters – The International Association of Fire Fighters has more than 2,900 affiliates, representing fire fighters in more than 3,500 communities in the U.S. and Canada. The 274,000 members of the IAFF are the nation’s full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics, who protect the lives and property of 85 percent of the nation’s population.
- Mesothelioma Web – Firefighters are at risk of asbestos exposure because of its frequent use in older structures and its ability to 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, providing information and support to those who have been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma Web has achieved HON (Health On the Net) code approval; HON is a non-profit organization whose mission is to guide people to accurate medical information and expertise online and thereby to contribute to improved health care through patient empowerment and better informed health professionals.
- National Fire Protection Association – The world’s leading advocate of fire prevention and is an authoritative source on public safety. In fact, NFPA’s 300 codes and standards influence every building, process, service, design, and installation in the United States, as well as many of those used in other countries. NFPA’s focus on true consensus has helped the association’s code-development process earn accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
- U.S. Fire Administration – 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.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)
- NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory
- U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
Reference Books: Investigating the Cause of Fires
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
- How to use forensic science and crime scene investigation techniques
- How to find a job
- How to determine cause and origin or a fire
- Most commonly used tools and equipment
- How to conduct chemical analysis on physical evidence and analyze the results
Following is a list of books
Practical Fire and Arson Investigation: Second Edition (Practical Aspects of Criminal & Forensic Investigation)
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. The book provides specific details on the basic principles, and advanced applied forensic investigative techniques.
This is the second edition of the book and it has been significantly updated from the first edition, with more than 40$ 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
- How to eliminate 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
Forensic Fire Scene Reconstruction
This book talks about such topics as physical evidence and burn patterns on buildings and vehicles. The book describes a new approach to reconstructing crime scenes using both forensic science and behavioral science. You’ll read about such topics as: Identifiable fire pattern damage, human factors involved, identifying physical evidence of human activity, and the application of the scientific method based upon relevant scientific principles and research. This book is great for private investigators, law enforcement investigators, criminal prosecutors, and fire protection experts.
Blaze: The Forensics of Fire
This book, written by a journalist and television writer, looks at fire investigators and the investigations they conduct. 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 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 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.