Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, Second Edition

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ISBN 9781439875988
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    • Focuses on the investigation of residential, commercial, and industrial structures
    • Explains how to approach a fire scene
    • Examines the central scientific concepts necessary to determine the cause of a fire
    • Uses real cases to illustrate concepts
    • Demonstrates how to effectively present the results of an investigation


    Knowledge of the science behind fires is critical to understanding a fire’s cause and successfully presenting that determination to the authorities or in litigation. Now in its second edition, Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation focuses on the practical application of scientific principles to determine the causes of fires. Uniquely qualified with years of experience in on-site investigations, lab analyses, and courtroom presentation, the author provides a resource that is unparalleled in depth and focus.

    The book explores:

    • The history of fire investigation and the basic chemistry and physics of fire
    • The science of fire dynamics—how things burn and how they interact with their surroundings while doing so
    • Practical procedures for conducting fire scene inspections
    • Laboratory examination of fire debris to test for the presence of ignitable liquid residues and for potential ignition sources
    • Relevant scientific principles as applied to 30 actual fires
    • The evolution of the mythology of arson investigation
    • The common root causes of errors in fire investigation

    The final chapter discusses the professional practice of fire investigation. It examines quality assurance, business practices, and the fundamentals of being an expert witness, with advice for giving testimony in depositions and at trial. Other highlights of the second edition include new and expanded discussions on novel training methods, first assumptions, computer fire modeling, low voltage ignition sources, the questionable validity of some origin determinations, and recent changes in NFPA 921.

    Thorough and accessible, this volume not only provides the practical information necessary to conduct an effective inquiry but also offers insight into the science, history, and theory behind what makes fire investigation a multi-faceted profession.

    John Lentini discusses the book in a video on the CRC Press YouTube Channel.

    Table of Contents

    Fire and Science
    Argument versus Experiment
    Fire and the Enlightenment
    Scientific Approach to Fire Investigation
    Modern Fire Analysis
    NFPA 921
    NFPA 1033
    Science, Law, and Law Enforcement
    Chemistry and Physics of Combustion
    Fire and Energy
    Basic Chemistry
    States of Matter
    Behavior of Gases
    Stoichiometry and Flammable Limits
    Behavior of Liquids
    Behavior of Solids
    Fire Dynamics and Fire Pattern Development
    Self-Heating and Spontaneous Ignition
    Chemical Ignition
    Smoldering Ignition
    Compartment Fires
    Plume Pattern Development
    Ventilation Pattern Development
    Penetrations through Floors
    Horizons, Movement, and Intensity Patterns
    Clean Burn
    Electrical Patterns
    Fire Modeling
    Fire Investigation Procedures
    Recognize the Need
    Presumption of Accidental Cause: The Null Hypothesis
    Negative Corpus Methodology
    Planning the Investigation
    Initial Survey: Safety First
    Avoiding Spoliation
    Origin Determination
    Evidence Collection and Preservation
    Fatal Fires
    Hypothesis Development and Testing
    Reporting Procedure
    Record Keeping
    Analysis of Ignitable Liquid Residues
    Evolution of Separation Techniques
    Evolution of Analytical Techniques
    Evolution of Standard Methods
    Isolating the Residue
    Initial Sample Evaluation
    ILR Isolation Method Selection
    Solvent Selection
    Internal Standards
    Advantages and Disadvantages of Isolation Methods
    Analyzing Isolated ILR
    Criteria for Identification
    Improving Sensitivity
    Estimating the Degree of Evaporation
    Identity of Source
    Reporting Procedures
    Record Keeping
    Quality Assurance
    Evaluation of Ignition Sources
    Joint Examinations of Physical Evidence
    Appliances and Electrical Components
    Electronic Device Reliability and Failure Modes
    Kitchen Ranges
    Coffee Makers
    Deep Fat Fryers
    Space Heating Appliances
    Water Heaters
    Clothes Dryers
    Fluorescent Lights
    Recessed Lights
    Exhaust Fans
    Service Panels
    Oxygen Enrichment Devices
    Testing of Ignition Scenarios
    Spontaneous Ignition Tests
    Following Up
    Thirty Fire Scene Scenarios
    Arson Fire #1: The Fictitious Burglar
    Arson Fire #2: Unexplained Accelerants
    Arson Fire #3: Unpleasant Neighbors
    Arson Fire #4: Accidental Causes Eliminated
    Dryer Fires
    Dryer Fire #1: Misrouted Power Cord
    Dryer Fire #2: Cross-Threaded Connection
    Dryer Fire #3: Spliced Power Cord
    Dryer Fire #4: Internal Power Wire Comes Loose
    Electrical Fires
    Electrical Fire #1: Energized Neutral
    Electrical Fire #2: Worn-Out Outlet
    Electrical Fire #3: Makeshift Extension Cord
    Electrical Fire #4: Failed Transformer
    Electrical Fire #5: Overdriven Staple
    Fluorescent Light Fires
    Fluorescent Light Fire #1: Ballast Failure
    Fluorescent Light Fire #2: Overheated Lamp Holder
    Gas Fires
    Gas Fire #1: Leak in Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing Line (and Failure to Inspect)
    Gas Fire #2: Leak at New Flare Fitting
    Gas Fire #3: Overfilled Cylinders
    Gas Fire #4: New Installation, Open Line
    Heater Fires
    Heater Fire #1: Combustibles on Floor Furnace
    Heater Fire #2: Portable Heater Ignites Cardboard
    Heater Fire #3: Contents Stacked in Front of Heater
    Industrial Fires
    Industrial Fire #1: Machine Shop Spray Booth
    Industrial Fire #2: Waste Accumulations on Roof
    Industrial Fire #3: Design Flaw in Printing Machine
    Industrial Fire #4: Hydraulic Fluid Fire
    Industrial Fire #5: Another Chicken Story
    Lightning Fires
    Lightning Fire #1
    Lightning Fire #2
    Water Heaters
    Water Heater Fire #1
    The Mythology of Arson Investigation
    Development and Promulgation of Myths
    Crazed Glass
    Depth and Location of Char
    Lines of Demarcation
    Sagged Furniture Springs
    Fire Load
    Low Burning and Holes in the Floor
    Angle of V
    Time and Temperature
    Sources of Error in Fire Investigation
    Overlooking Critical Data
    Misinterpreting Critical Data
    Misinterpreting Irrelevant Data
    Ignoring Inconsistent Data
    Two-Dimensional Thinking
    Poor Communication
    Faulty Chemistry or Engineering
    Evaluating Allegations of Arson
    Is This Arson Call Based Entirely on the Appearance of the Burned Floor in a Fully Involved Compartment?
    Is This Arson Call Based on "Low Burning," OR Crazed Glass, OR Spalling, OR "Shiny Alligatoring," OR a "Narrow V-Pattern," OR "Melted/Annealed Metal?"
    Is This Arson Call Based on an Unconfirmed Canine Alert?
    Is This Arson Call Based on a Fire that "Burned Hotter than Normal" or "Faster than Normal?"
    Do Neutral Eyewitnesses Place the Origin of the Fire Somewhere Other than Where the Arson Investigator Says It Was Set?
    Is This Arson Call Based Entirely or Largely on a Mathematical Equation or a Computer Model?
    Investigations Gone Wrong
    State of Georgia v. Weldon Wayne Carr
    Maynard Clark v. Auto Owners Insurance Company
    Error Analysis
    United States v. Kenneth and Ricky Daniels and Daniels v. Liberty Mutual, et al.
    Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Louis DiNicola
    State of Arizona v. Ray Girdler
    Hanley v. Prudential Insurance
    Howell Business Forms v. Vik Brothers Insurance Group
    Eve and Manson Johnson v. Florida Farm Bureau
    State of Georgia v. John Metcalf and Kimberly Post
    State of North Carolina v. Jermaine Antoine Smith
    United States v. Michael Weber
    Stark County Port Authority v. Railway Properties, Ltd.
    State of Louisiana v. Amanda Gutweiler
    The Professional Practice of Fire Investigation
    Identifying Your Stakeholders
    Doing Consistent Work
    Business Practices
    Pro Bono Work
    Serving as Expert Witness
    Courtroom Testimony

    Author Bio(s)