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Fire Debris Analysis

The Fire Debris Analysis Unit examines evidence collected at fire scenes and is a part of the Forensic Chemistry Section of the laboratory. The purpose of this examination is to determine if an ignitable liquid is present. Most ignitable liquids are petroleum products, however other non-petroleum products can be identified. Fire debris evidence is packaged in mason jars, paint cans, or fire debris evidence bags and generally consists of charred fire debris or clothing items.

The examination procedure involves extracting ignitable liquids from the evidence using one of three extraction techniques or a combination of techniques. The three extraction methods used by this laboratory are Passive Diffusion Headspace, Simple Headspace, and Solvent Extraction. The extract is then analyzed on a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer, which provides data that the examiner will then analyze. Based on the pattern, or appearance of the data, the examiner will identify the type of product, if any, in the extract.

Additional information pertaining to Trace Evidence, Serological Screening, and Fire Debris Evidence may be found in the Forensic Science Handbook, vols. I-IV, edited by Richard Saferstien, PhD.