Investigating cases of arson is a tricky aspect of forensic science that needs systematic approach to arrive at the resolution

Investigating cases of arson is a tricky aspect of forensic science that needs systematic approach to arrive at the resolution. Poorly conducted investigation taints potential physical evidence and some evidence by witnesses might be overlooked. Importantly, it is important to investigate and get necessary data before theorizing about the cause of the fire; theorizing before facts leads to twist of facts to suit the theories. It is in cognizance of potential misgivings of some investigation processes that some organizations have established procedures for arson investigation. For example, the National Institute of Justice developed improved procedures for the collection of evidence and investigation of arson scenes (Samuels, Boyd & Rau, 2000). The paper is divided into three parts; the first part of the paper explains how the fire scene will be investigated. The second part of the paper explains the indicators and evidence at the scene on the possible cause of the fire. The part details the significance of the burn patterns and fire spread. The third part hypothesizes into the cause of the fire based on the evidences and indicators.
1. Conducting Investigation at the Fire Scene
As an investigator, before arriving at the fire scene the fire fighters had arrived and managed to extinguish the fire. The fire fighters adhered to the size-up factors and strategized on the effective strategies and tactics that could be used with the lowest level of risk. According to International Association of Fire Chiefs and National Fire Protection Association (2014), fire fighters always consider the possibility that lives could be in the burning structure; that is why rescue and search are done simultaneously as the fire is extinguished. The sizes up factors include the occupancy of the house in terms of the type of materials in the house. Consideration of the occupancy helps fire fighters to assess the level of risk to the occupants and the civilians. In addition, the fire fighters also considered the time in terms of the exact time and season of the year; time influences rescue and search operations. According to Gustin (2009), an incident of fire in a kitchen requires immediate search in the living rooms; the season determines the possible cause of fire for example, whether it is fire spreading from one building to another due to strong winds. In addition, some seasons in some areas are prone to hurricane; as such, fire fighters must be prepared to cut hurricane shutters. Furthermore, the fire fighters considered the available fire fighting resources and the size of the building; old buildings are relatively smaller than modern buildings. After the fire fighters had extinguished the fire, they established that there were no causalities or fatalities that arose from the fire. They also noted that electricity connection, mains gas and water supplies were safe and did not cause or contribute to the fire. It is therefore the duty of the investigator to determine the cause of the fire.
1.1 Arriving at the Scene
The first individuals to arrive at the scene are the first responders; in this regard, the first responders are the fire fighters and first witnesses. On arrival at the fire scene, a mental note of all that are at the scene including the conditions of the scene, the people around the scene and any other unusual activities at the scene are noted. In addition, the nature of the structure in terms of whether it is a residential or a commercial structure and the nature of the occupancy will be noted. Furthermore, the time of arrival and the prevailing weather condition will be mentally noted.
1.1.1 Observing the Fire and Scene Conditions
After cordoning the scene, an assessment of the scene in terms of structural collapse and any other hazard is done. During the observation of the scene, the surrounding conditions of the scene; for example, unusual odors, fire trailers and presence of containers and exterior charring on the building are captured (National Institute of Justice, 2009). During the observation, notes about the condition of the scene, video images and pictures of the scene are taken. In addition, the information about the scene safety is communicated to other colleagues.
1.1.2 Exercise Scene Safety
Exercising scene safety is the prerogative of the first responders. Personal safety and the safety of public are paramount. Some fire scenes may be designed to harm responders; as a result, it is important that first responders put on personal protective equipment. As part of exercising scene safety, the evaluation of the structure in terms of its susceptibility to collapse, chemical, biological and electrical risks are assessed. For example, chemical risks will be superficially assessed by sense of smell or checking for any liquids, smoke or solid materials around the scene. In case of identification of a queer device, solid or odor, then specialized personnel trained on removal of dangerous equipment will be called and requested to remove them from the scene (National Institute of Justice, 2009). The surrounding of the structure will be evaluated and safety zones established.
1.1.3 Preserving the Fire Scene
The process of extinguishing fire and rescuing individuals may contribute to loss of some physical evidence. For instance, during search and rescue operations, fire fighters and other first responders may break some windows or change fire patterns. In addition, the movement of fire fighters may leave shoe prints or introduce liquids that damage evidence. It is necessary that the available evidence is protected from further destruction (National Institute of Justice, 2009). Meanwhile, detailed observation of the scene is done and mentally noted. However, due to the gravity of the details some information is documented using pictures; for example, the fire patterns, presence of fire trailers such as ignitable liquids and piles of newspaper are pictured. In addition, tire impressions and shoe prints, existence of broken windows and doors, the distribution of debris, location of containers and indications of forced entry such as tool marks and tools are pictured. Trace evidence such as existence of body fluids, blood, fingerprints and hairs are pictured in relation to their location. Importantly, a part from documenting the evidence by taking images, needless destruction of the structure is avoided. Some transient evidence such as hair will be covered with clean boxes and other evidence will be identified by markers and cones (National Institute of Justice, 2009). Some evidence that might be destroyed when the structure collapses should be removed after taking its picture in its original location.


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