How Investigators Find the Origin of a Fire
There are many tools and observations that forensic fire investigators use to determine the origin and cause of a fire. Before the early 1980’s, theories rather than scientific methods were used to determine the cause. This was mostly due to a lack of technology that we now have which can help narrow down specific details. Some of the techniques they use include the evidence left on surfaces from the flames, satellite imagery, and chemical testing.
Point of Origin
Once the fire is extinguished, the investigation into the cause of the fire begins with an examination conducted similar to how crime scenes are processed. Evidence is analyzed, collected, and preserved while closely examining the damage to find the origin of the fire. Some common terms include the “area of origin” – which could be an entire room – as well as the “point of origin” which is considered the smallest area that can be identified as where the fire originated – such as a specific appliance. Once the point of origin is discovered, chemistry, fire behavior, and its effects are used to establish the cause.
Three components are required for a fire to occur including a fuel source, oxidant, and energy in the form of heat through a sustained chemical reaction. Once all three requirements are met, ignition will occur and produce either a flaming or smoldering fire dependent on the addition of heat to fuel in the air. Exothermic chemical reactions, friction, solar radiation, and electricity are all various sources that will determine the type of fire.
After discovering the origin of the fire, the investigator will search for things that could have served as an ignition source for the fire. Each possible ignition source needs to be tested to determine if it could have been the source used to start the fire.
The main purpose of conducting a fire investigation is to discover the origin and cause to determine whether the fire was deliberate, accidental, or natural. Discovering the cause of the fire will help to ensure that similar, natural, or accidental fires don’t occur in the future.
Forensic Engineering Specialists
Engineering Specialists Inc. has nearly 30 years of field experience in analyzing the damage to vehicles, residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. We can work on any project in any state, nationwide. When you or your business needs to confirm the extent of damage or how to correct a problem, email us at email@example.com or call us, toll-free, at (877) 559-4010.