Introduction Fire is very useful in man’s existence in planet Earth. During incient time, Hominid (great apes) is the group of people discovered fire. They used fire to keep them warm and to protect them against wild animals. As the time passed by, they discovered that fire can be used to cook food. Until now, people used it in daily live, and many other things that need the benefits afforded by fire. While fire has helped much in shaping and developing the country’s industries, it has also become a threat and has claimed numerous lives and properties.
The degree of usefulness which fire possess is conditioned by the care which man applied in handling it. As such, the task of fire prevention/control has become a pressing concern of the government. This is so, in the face of the alarming figure of losses yearly resulting form reported conflagrations. The threat of conflagration is greater in cities and municipalities. Arson is an inherently difficult crime to detect and prosecute, and it falls between police and fire department responsibility.
Both the police and fire services can legitimately claim authority in arson cases, but each also may rationalize that the responsibility belongs to the other. The police/law enforcement spends additional time and money trying to bring arsonist to trial, and the arson investigator need cooperation and better training to solve an arson crime. Body Fire investigation is by nature the basis for fire prevention program. Only an in-depth analysis of what sequences of events enable it to spread, and how and where it was controlled (e. g. irefighting, structural design lack of fuel) can help prevent future fires. One of the most difficult problems to solve is to determine the cause of the fire, since the flames generally consume any evidence of what occurred. This is the reason that the cause of most fires cannot determined without a long and careful investigation. Cause arson is a crime against either persons or properties. It may be defined as the malicious burning of another’s property or the burning of one’s own property with intent to injury or defraud the insurer f that property. Arson may include the burning of all kinds of buildings, structures, aircraft, watercrafts, crops, forest land and personal property. So no matter how small, fire must be investigated. Fire investigations provide authorities with information needed to guide fire prevention education programs, help fire inspectors in spotting and eliminating new or previously overlooked hazards, and develop meaningful information for training fire protection personnel.
As far as fire investigation is concerned, they must be defined as: Cause – that which made the fire start, and Reason – that which led to the cause of a fire (a motive leading to the action) Both cause and reason must be established to satisfactorily complete a fire investigation. The “cause” explains the existence of fire, or the WHAT of investigation; while the “reason” establishes the WHY of the fire, and also to provide guidance in establishing corrective action to preclude a recurrence of the incident.
By knowing the classes of fire a certain material will fall into, you will be able to make intelligent firefighting decisions. Base on Burning Fuel (four classes of fire): Class A- Fires in ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, and paper; Class B- Fires in flammable petroleum products or other flammable liquids, gasses or greases; Class C- Fires involving energized electrical equipment; Class D- Fires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium and sodium.
Base on the Fire Causes: Natural Fire- fire caused naturally without human intervention or aid; such as lightning, spontaneous ignition, mechanical malfunction of equipment; Accidental Fire- fire causes where human action is involved directly or indirectly. Example: a. )Careless disposal of smoking materials; b. )workers using welding-cutting equipment; Arson- fire cause as a result of the willful and criminal action of some persons; e. g. incendiary fire(arson cases); Unknown Fire- fires which are not classified as to cause.
Evidence kit provides equipment for use in the investigation and for the preservation of any evidence found at the scene after that evidence has been photograph in its original location. The following are some of the equipment: Special clothing such as: coverall, gloves, boots used to protect uniform; Flashlight electric lantern; Measuring tape and small ruler for making measurements; Labels (gummed and Stringed) used to identify items; New or sterile glass jars with rubber airtight seals used for the collection of samples; Envelops, boxes, plastic bags, metal cans used for the collection (assorted sizes) used for collection of samples.
Basic Steps in a Fire Scene Examination: Search systematically- make a plan, have in mined what you will look for, the way you will look, and what you will do with each item found and collected. Be thorough, complete, and orderly; Observe- Use your eyes ears, nose, and camera if possible to note the conditions. Observe the fire and the spectators; Take photograph- the camera records more details than the naked eye. Establish visual reference through numerous photographs.
Photograph each area several times during the various phases of investigation. Infrared photography may prove extremely valuable since it is sensitive to differences in heat; Work by the Process of Elimination- establishes a checklist and check off each item. Settle one item before attempting another if possible. Avoid backtracking; Check and Verify- Do not assume or take for granted. Don’t jump to conclusions; Take Note- writes down all the details; Draw diagrams- amplify notes with diagrams depicting locations of incidents described.
The area to conduct fire investigation is considered as a very important for a fire investigator, because it would help the investigator to determine the point of origin of the fire. The areas to be conducted for the fire investigation are the following: Exterior – Determine where the fire vested first by comparing burn char, smoke, and heat patterns around windows, doors, and roof. Look for the following: exterior points of origin; unusual burn patterns of flammable liquid; tools and flammable liquid containers; footprints and scuff marks at suspected points of entry.
Interior – Conduct a cursory examination or general survey of the entire structure of interior for the extent of fire damage. Establish the class of fire duration (brief or long) and the approximate burn time by checking the following: Window glass condition; Depth of wood char, at or in close proximity to the point of origin; Penetration of fire restrictive wall coverings by fire; Electric clock that has been stopped by fire damage; Note the time stopped and compare with the alarm time. The time factors should be estimated and considered as approximation only.
To determine the point of origin: First, examine the entire interior of the building and determine which room or areas has received the most severe fire damage. Generally, this will be the area where the fire burned extensively or the longest and will very likely be where it originated. Second, determine the level or origin within the room by examining and comparing the bottom side of the tables, shelves, and chairs. Third, examine the ceiling and look for the following patterns: a. ) Fire penetration and; b. ) heaviest fire exposure. Fourth, examine the light bulbs within the room.
The side of the bulbs which is initially exposed to heat begin to swell or bulge and lose shape at about 900 degrees F when exposed to heat for 10 minutes or more actually point to the area of fire origin. And fifth, examine walls with the room and look for fire patterns or fire cones. Fires generally burn upward and outward, leaving corresponding fire patterns on wall as a result of heat transfer through convection and radiation. The steepness or relative pitch of the angle seen on the fire cone is indicative of the type burning, e. g. smoldering or flaming.
The use of photographs to document much of the evidence and to support the observations, opinions and conclusions the investigators wish to make as to the cause of the fire will support the investigator’s findings Photographs also provide evidences which would counteract arguments of alternative causes of the fire which might be suggested at a latter date. Photographs are also useful for jogging the investigator’s memory at the time of writing the report or before appearing in court. Also in extremely dark fire scene the photographs could provide detail which may not be available using torch light.
Photographs provide a pictorial presentation which is easily understood and evaluated. In making a report, the investigator should provide at least one or two photographs wherever possible to support each observation he/she wishes to present. The photographs should be numbered and captioned and referred to as “Photograph 1,2,etc. ” A plan should also be made showing the view angles of each photograph or alternatively the photographs should be presented in a sequence which will provide some type of continuity to allow the reader to determine the view angle of each one.
In photographing the exterior, look for the following: From all sides or at least to opposite corners of the building to show the overall degree of fire damage and the locations of the various entrances and windows; The location of the building to neighboring or fire fighting access areas; Any object which may be material to the circumstances of the fire; Type of tracks, footprints and the location of explosion debris are photographed in close details, as well as from a distance.
The exterior photographs generally shows the nature and material of construction and the locations of the doors, windows, chimneys, flues, electrically fuse box or gas meter. The openings where the fire vented are usually clearly shown in the exterior photographs. Exterior burn patterns are generally easier to interpret than the equivalent interior burn pattern as they generally provide good color and texture contrast, and are less affected by smoke. Panoramic views are valuable in reports as they provide in great detail an overall view of the scene.
It can be produced by joining together a sequence of photographs or by using a wide angle lens or a disposable camera equipped with a wide angled lens. Photographs of the interior of a building are generally more difficult for the viewer to interpret than the exterior photographs as the interior surfaces are usually burnt and covered with a layer of soot. A good quality flash unit is essential as the photographs need top provide as much detail as possible to allow the investigators to familiarize themselves with the nature of the damage and possibly the identity and purpose of the room before the fire.
In photographing the exterior, the photographer should consider the following: All rooms and areas inside the building affected by the fire, the photographs should be sequentially presented in a report from the areas of least damage to the areas of greatest damage; The peripheral areas where the fire had not originated; The area of fire origin should be photograph be taken during excavation, if the process has yielded points of interest; At areas where an accelerant is suspected, the areas of localized damage to the floor as well as the overhead damage should be photograph; The burn patterns at doorways should be photograph to show the spread of the fire between rooms. The burn patterns on the walls in hallways normally show the room from which the fire originated and the direction of spread of fire; Appliances suspected of causing the fire should be photographed from a distance and in close up in the location where they were found. The remains should be taken outside to allow closer inspection and be photographed in sunlight or later at the laboratory. Fire brigade personnel will usually give an account of the security of a building as they found it.
In many cases their accounts will need to be verified at each point of entry by an inspection of the burn patterns and soot deposits to surface around the point of entry and an examination for tool marks. And the following are the area to be considered: The doors should be first photograph in the position in which they were found. If the door was found closed then both sides of the door should be photograph; The burn patterns and soot deposits around the door and the door frame should be photograph as they normally as certain the position of the door at the time of the fire; Any parts of the door or lock which may have been dislodged as a result of some type of forced entry should be photograph at the location where they were found and later reconstruction at their original position.
On Windows: The position at the time of the fire should also be determined and the evidence used for such an evaluation should be photograph; The position of the falling glass could both indicate the position of the window at the time of the fire; The smoke and heat patterns above a window can also indicate the position of the window at the time of fire should be photographed; The window locks should also be recovered and photograph. Without evidence, arrest and prosecution of an arsonist is extremely difficult. Photographing is an effective tool in recording and preserving the evidence of set fires. Much of the actual evidence may be destroyed during firefighting or if it survives the fire, it may be impossible to preserve.
Every effort should be made to photograph the scene of a fire, whether or not arson is suspected, before it is disturbed by other operations. Pictures may be used to prove the intent to commit arson. The following are considered in photographing in arson investigation: Show the areas in which the fire started or was set; Help identity spectators. An arsonist often remains to watch the fire; Provide the information about the speed of combustion and direction of spreading; Show the progressive stages of burning and fire fighting from various angles. If possible keep a record of the time each picture was taken; Help investigators determine the type of material/s burning. This is where the use of color film is recommended.
The steam, color, and quantity of smoke and the color and size of flames are indications of what type of material is burning. The color of smoke often indicates whether an accelerant, such as gas, was used to speed the burning process; Give particular attention to the most burned charred areas. The structure should be photographed from all sides or angles to show the damaged areas. Other things to look for are incendiary devices and combustible materials, such as matchbox/es, paper, liquids (such as gas and paint thinner), and fuses. Although they may have burned completely, there could be a visible trail, defective wiring and electrical or gas appliances that may have been the cause of the fire. Arson is a crime against either persons or property.
It may be defied as the willful and malicious burning of another’s property or the burning of the one’s own property with intent to injure or defraud the insurer of that property. Arson may include the burning of all kinds of buildings, structure, aircraft, watercraft, crops, forest land and personal property. The investigation of fires for there causes and the detection and apprehension of arsonist is correctly the function of the fire department. Arson and the malicious activities of many persons cause a significant impact each year in this country and abroad. There are many motives that contribute to these crimes. The legal authority for investigating fires and prosecuting people who arranged for a fire is usually given to the State Fire Marshall.
In the Philippines, under the DILG or PNP Law, the Bureau of Fire Protection and Public Safety is the main government agency responsible for the prevention and suppression of all destructive fires on buildings, houses and other structures, forest, land transportation vehicles and equipment, ships or vessels docked at piers or major seaports, petroleum industry installations, plane crashes and other similar incidents. The Legal Aspect’s of Arson/Fire Investigation: It is the concern of the fire investigator to prove malicious intent of the offender. Intent must be proved, otherwise no crime exist; The presumes that a fire is accidental, hence criminal designs must be shown; Fire caused by accident or criminal design must be shown; Fire caused by accident or negligence does not constitute arson. These are the following which constitute arson: Burning- there must be burning or changing, i. e. the fiber of the wood must be destroyed or decomposed, its identity or physical state changed; Willfulness- the act was done purposely and with intent; Motive- the moving cause that induces the commission of the crime; Malice- it denotes hatred or a desire for revenge; Intent- the purpose or design with the act is done and involve the will to do the act. Persons without motives: Those who are mentally ill; Pathological fire-setters; Pyros (pyromaniac); Psychos. Persons with motives: Those with desire to defraud the insurer; Employees or such other person who has grievance; Those with desire to conceal evidence of crime; Those who set fire for purposes of intimidation
The following are the common motives of arsonist: 1. ) Economic Gain: Insurance fraud- benefits; Desire to dispose merchandise- loss of market value being out of season, lack of raw materials, over supply of merchandise. 2. ) Profit by the Perpetrator other then the Insured Person: Insurance agent wishing business with the insured person; Business competitors plan to drive others; Person seeking job as personnel protection; Salvagers and contractors wishing to contract another building. 3. ) Concealment of Crime- when the purpose of hiding a crime or committing a crime, arson was used as a means. 4. ) Pyromania- the uncontrollable impulse of a person to burn anything without any motivation.
Examples of pyromania: Abnormal youth- epileptics, imbeciles, and morons; Hero type- a person responsible setting a building on fire and pretends to discover it, turn the alarm or make some rescue works to appear a “hero”; Drugs Addics and Alcoholics; Sexual Deviates and Perverts. Most of the physical evidence in arson is often destroyed. To prove arson was committed, Corpus Delicti (is the fact that crime was committed) must show and the identity of the arsonist must be established. Factors involved in Corpus Delicti: a. ) Burning- that there was a fire that may be shown by direct testimony of complaint, firemen responding to the crime, and other witnesses of the fire incident. Burned parts of the building may also indicate location. b. ) Criminal design- a willful and intent action done must be shown.
The presence of incendiary devices, flammable substances/materials such as gasoline and kerosene may indicate the fire is not accidental. c. ) Evidence of intent- when valuables were removed from the building before the fire, the ill-feeling between the accused and the occupants of the building involved or burned-absence of effort to put off the fire and such other indications. Initially, the important point to be established is the point of origin of the fire, or what particular place in the building the fire started. This may be established through tracing the origin of fire and searching for evidence, look for prima facie evidence of arson, and studying the fingerprint of fire.
Steps in Tracing the Origin of Fire and Searching for Evidence: 1. ) External/Outside Survey- careful conduct of inspection to the burned building; 2. ) Internal/Inside Survey- enter the building to correlate the same with the outside survey of the structure in question; 3. ) Locate the point of origin of fire, the ceiling area must be checked first When entering the building, the investigator should observe the following: look for mark on doors and windows not burned for possible indication of forcible entry; notice unusual arrangement of the building content; stocks or substitution of stocks, new expensive stocks have been removed, substituted by second hand or old stocks.
The fingerprint of the fire occurs during the free burning stage of the fire, or when it undergoes pyrolytic decomposition or heated gases more upward on the walls leaving a burnt pattern. The witnesses must be questioned as to: His identity; What attracted his attention; The time of observation; His position in relation to the fire at the time of his observation; Exact location of the blaze; The rapidity or the speed of spread of fire; Color of flame and odor of he/she is in position observe this; Size and intensity; Any other person in the vicinity seen by the witness. The following are the guidelines in the investigating arson: 1. ) Arrival and Observation.
Arrival: Observe person/vehicle leaving the area; Characteristics of person/vehicle leaving the area; unusual road/street condition; Barricade showing the progress of response; Vehicle parked in such a manner as to create obstruction to the fire scene. Observation: Identifying the person who called the fire department; First person who leave the fire scene; Did the fire occur during or after business hour? ; Was it during daytime or night time? ; Condition of traffic in the area. 2. ) Protecting the Fire Scene: Cooperation of the firemen and the Police; Assignment of guards The mechanics of search in the fire scene: Planning; Shifting of the debris; Location of the point of origin of the fire; General Rules/SOP’s; Collecting and Preserving evidence; Photographing; Sketching; Assistance of Qualified Experts; Handling of Physical Evidence.
Among the most likely method to be used by investigations are the recording of the facts noted at the fire scene, sketches and photographs as well as statements taken from the witness. And other sources of information that maybe useful in developing the investigation and completing the reports, fire inspection reports and financial reports. All notes should be thorough, accurate, detailed and neat so that they are easily to transcribe and/or read. They will readily assist in correcting observations and developing leads. These notes are the principal basis of all reports the investigator makes and submits. It is the final written results of taking notes, recording observations and interviewing witnesses.
It includes the written results of the construction and size of the burned structure, what the firemen observed and encountered upon their arrival at the fire scene, the color of the smoke and flame and the intensity and location of the fire. As the evidence is collected and marked for identification purposes, it should be entered on some type of inventory sheet. In all cases, it will improve the miscibility of evidence by establishing chain of custody necessary to prove during the trial on an arson case. III. Conclusion: Therefore, I conclude that arson investigation is very important to everyone, especially for the firefighters. So that, they would not only often make a snap judgment at the scene as to the cause of a fire, without an adequate evidence or sufficient investigation on which to base their decision.
And probably the most urgent step in controlling arson rates is for top fire and police officials and local, state, and national government officials to recognize the magnitude of the problem and then provide the necessary resources to combat it. Recommendation: The researcher would recommend that people needs to be educated regarding to fire prevention and the firefighter should also have a proper training and should follow the proper investigation or the step by step process to investigate arson crime. In relationship with these, arsonist may afraid to commit arson crime and there is tendency that arson cases would lessen Bibliography: Braswell, Michael C. , et al. “Arson and Explosives”. Crime Scene Investigation. 2nd ed. New York: 2011, 219-223. Chamelin, Neil C. ”Arson Investigation”. Criminal Investigation. 6th ed. New York: 1996, 660-662.