Home Facts & Tips Useful Tips and Steps for Investigating Fire Scenes – ListDen

Investigating fire scene is a strenuous task as even the slightest detail can make or break a case. Documenting fire scenes are often some of the toughest cases because fire consumes the evidence of their initiation. Though not every fire accident is an arson case but it makes sense to treat it as crime scenes to determine the origin and cause of the fire. This is because a well-documented scene will have every minor detail which can help later in the judicial process. Thus, such cases can only be handled by a professional arson investigator and public officials such as fire departments, emergency medical services, and law enforcement body.

A professional fire investigator collects DNA, fingerprints, and different forms of residue from the scene location which plays an integral role in the investigative process. In this post, we’ve shared three tips for documenting an arson scene in order to solve the case.

Approach the scene carefully

The task of investigation begins as soon as the investigator arrives at the scene. There are a number of things that need to be assessed and documented from the moment of arrival such as the damage caused by the fire, and any witnesses or bystanders. The observation and evidence collected at this initial stage are crucial elements to take the case in the right direction. It is at this time to take note of items that shouldn’t necessarily be where they are.

Even the minor details noticed at the early stage can provide hints as to whether a fire was caused intentionally or by forces of nature. An investigator should also develop a working hypothesis based on the available information at this stage. As the case proceeds, this hypothesis can be revised with the addition of new information and observations. The evidence collected and information recorded plays a vital role in determining the origin and cause of the fire, and in convincing another investigator, court or jury.

Documenting the Scene

The fire scene should be secured for a detailed investigation. Put caution tape around the designated scene area to block it off from the public. The arson expert will now record as much detail as possible with the help of photographs, sketches, and notes. Photographs and videos help in permanently storing the original state of the scene in the case of any tampering or moving evidence around. During the scene evaluation phase, the investigator should look for flame and smoke conditions such as the volume, color, height and location of the flames and smoke, as well as the direction in which the flames and smoke are moving. Moreover, it’s important to remain watchful of strange bystanders or vehicles leaving the scene. The photographs should be supported with a written narrative, observations, and descriptions, as well as written speculations regarding the origin and cause of the fire. Proper documentation of records with the help of diagrams, drawings, and sketching of the crime scene is immensely valuable for judicial purposes.

Release the scene and submit the report

Finally, once the investigator is satisfied that all pieces of evidence are collected and documented, it’s time for releasing the scene and submitting reports to the appropriate database. However, before releasing the scene, it’s necessary that the entire team walk through the location to ensure that nothing is left unnoticed. All the collected evidence must be carefully preserved to avoid contamination during package and transportation. Once the on-site investigation is complete, it’s time to submit the evidence and report of the fire scene for further investigation.

Investigating fire scene is an intricate process because due to the destructive nature of fire, potential evidence gets disturbed or destroyed. Considering the complexity of the process, only a fire and arson expert can determine the cause of the fire, whether arson or accidental, in order to identify hazards and dangerous practices and prevent future fires.

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