Gas stations incidents are mainly a result of fires caused by mechanical, electrical or spontaneous heat. The investigators first role after arriving at the point of an incident is ensuring the safety of the public, by restricting access to the scene. Once security procedures have been implemented, the investigators begin to look for possible causes of fire. Before settling on incendiary, the investigators need to eliminate natural and accidental causes of the gas station fire.
In the determination of incendiaries, the investigators look for evidence to support the claim, such as presence of trailers, plants, devices, accelerants, multiple fires, or crime cover-ups. At times, the investigators are unable to determine the exact cause of a fire, and therefore, they submit a report stating that the fire cause is undetermined, pending the receipt of further information. This paper looks at the various methods of examining a fire scene.
This theory provides a systematic investigative process that ensures that the total occupancy is investigated. The investigation is conducted from the exterior to the interior, moving from the scenes with the least damage to the ones that are heavily damaged (De Haan 31). The investigators go through the entire scene including both burnt areas and the unburnt sorroundings, taking into consideration the direction of heat flow, the lowest point of burning, overhead damage and fire patterns (char and lines of demarcation).
The cause of a fire can be determined by finding its point of origin. This can be achieved by observing heat patterns and smoke damage to determine the hottest part of the fire, which is usually its point of origin. Photographs are quite useful in determining any strange or unusual objects and materials at the scene of the fire. The investigators then make a rough sketch of the scene using the photographs, and try to identify clues that are useful in realizing the cause of the fire.
Reconstruction of the fire scene occurs hand in hand with examination of the scene. The process involves replacing items in the scene, and validating fire indicators through interviews with fire fighters, staff and other witnesses. Fire fighters are especially useful in investigating causes of a fire since they are the first to interact with the fire.
They can provide information regarding the location of the fire at the time of their arrival, the presence of suspicious devices, and the reactions of people, among other things. The stories of the people interviewed including the witnesses, police officers, medical personnel and customers, are compared in analysis of the crime scene.
The interviews conducted by the investigators are aimed at ascertaining situations adjacent to the fire, and other information on valuables, records, repairs, and maintenance services and personnel history. Good investigators make use of field notes, where they write down their observations, scene information, as well as suppression information. Besides taking field notes, documentation also involves making sketches and preparing diagrams of the incident scene and of the items within that scene that are of interest to the investigation.
The sketches serve a different purpose from the photographs as sketches show relative proportions, distances and dimensions. “An accurate sketch provides a clear overall illustration of the scene and shows the exact location of various items of evidence and their position in relation to each other and their surroundings” (Bates 19). This is beneficial in preserving the scene for reference when interrogating witnesses, and trying to solve the mystery of the incident at the gas station.
Bates, Edward B. Elements of Fire and Arson Investigation. Santa Cruz, CA: Davis Publishing Company, 1975. Print.
De Haan, John D. Kirk’s Fire Investigation, 3rd. Ed. New Jersey: Brady, 1991. Print.