How to Effectively Investigate a Fire and Arson Case

When it comes to incidences of fire and arson, even the slightest detail can make or break a case. The fire incidents are disastrous and require the assistance of skilled professionals in order to properly resolve the case. Investigating any crime scene is a complex job, but finding the evidence of origins and cause of fire and arson is even more difficult and requires extra attention to details in order to solve the case.

This is because of the destructive nature of fire which even destroys all the possible evidence.

From arriving at the scene to collecting different forms of residue, the investigator must analyze the scene with extreme vigilance. Fire and arson investigators are often hired or retained by defense attorneys or insurance companies to determine the origin and cause of the fires.

For any case involving fire, the investigator you hire must be trained in the various complexities that arise in the resolution of fire and arson cases. An experienced and skilled fire and arson investigator undertakes the following steps to successfully determine the origin and cause of the fire.

Arrival at Scene

The very first thing to do on arrival is removing civilians from the building and ensuring that the environment is safe. It is at this point that first responder should remove any flammable material or devices within a building, such as gas canisters or electronics that may explode.

After arriving at a fire scene, there are a number of things that need to be assessed, such as victims, the damage caused by the fire, and any witnesses. This is the most crucial step in the investigation because the evidence and other factors identified at this first stage will take the case further. Even the smallest detail and observations have the potential to take the investigation on the right path. The purpose of an investigation is to determine whether a fire was caused intentionally or by forces of nature.

Scene evaluation

Once the situation is normalised, the investigator should begin a preliminary scene assessment be taking a round of the fire scene to determine the extent of the damage. He should secure the area so that no evidence is disturbed. Usually, tapes are used to block the fire scene for evaluation and only officials are allowed to access the area.

The investigator needs to note the identities of witnesses and first responders before conducting interviews. The fire investigators should now speak to the first responders to understand the events prior to the fire outbreak and the current status of the fire scene. This information will help them in understanding the scene and situation to proceed with the investigation. Ask witnesses if any person who was present before or when the fire broke is missing right now. Now, the fire investigator begins evaluating the scene by taking a visual note of evidence, like blood stains.


Next step after scene evaluation is documenting the scene. Documentation includes a written narrative of observations and what was actually present at the scene, as well as, written speculations regarding the origin of the fire. In this step, the lead fire and arson investigator will note down the condition of the scene, take as many photographs as possible and even video record the location. This is because once the scene is stored back to its normal position; all the evidence will be gone forever. Therefore, documentation is crucial to permanently store the scene for future investigation to scan for clues and evidence that the investigator may have missed on site. These written notes and photographs when put together by the investigative team can serve as a fair piece of information to solve the case.

Release the scene and submit the report

After identifying and collecting evidence, next comes preserving and processing them. The evidence in arson cases often includes any weapons, explosive devices, matches, etc. Make sure the evidences are not contaminated during packaging and transporting. Once the investigator has securely packed all the pieces of evidence, the scene can be released and report can be submitted.

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