On-Scene Characterization of Flammable Liquid Vapors


J.D. DeHaan, Ph.D Fire-Ex Forensics Inc. USA
David A. Matthew, M.A. International Association of Fire Chiefs, USA
Gareth S. Dobson. Ph.D. Smiths Detection Inc. USA

Presented at International Symposium on Fire Investigation, 2014

There has not been a significant advancement in on-scene forensic fire debris analysis in over a decade. The ability to identify an accelerant at the fire scene would provide the fire investigator useful data, increasing efficiency and effectiveness. This research project was intended to establish if the identification of ignitable liquids can be achieved at the fire scene. Three testing sites in Utah, Texas and California provided data that the hand portable Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) with Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME) fiber sampling technique is able to confirm the identity of ignitable liquid vapors at the fire scene consistent with fire debris analysis techniques. Post flashover testing was conducted at three sites in California and one in Utah providing replicable data confirming ignitable liquid vapor identification at low part per billion (ppb) and part per million (ppm) concentrations in real-world fires. The evidentiary samples taken at the testing sites in California were sent to a certified lab to confirm the results from the field data. The GUARDION ® GC/MS produced by Smiths Detection was used for field testing. A limiting factor in the field application of GC/MS was determined when the data produced had to be analyzed by a GC/MS specialist to confirm the identification of the ignitable liquid, similar to current laboratory techniques. It is recommended that a fire debris analysis method be developed to increase the field application of GC/MS.

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Fire Investigator Qualifications Standard Approved for OSAC Registry

NAFI has endorsed National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations since the first edition was released in 1992. NFPA 921 has been a key source of technical information concerning the investigation of Fires and Explosions.  NAFI has also utilized and supported NFPA 1033 Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigators as this document provides guidance concerning the knowledge and competencies that a Fire and Explosion Investigator must have to effectively complete and investigation. Having these two documents selected and approved to be included in the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science registry which serves as a trusted repository of high-quality, science-based standards and guidelines for forensic practice is testimony that these documents are truly authoritative. Both of these documents have been key elements in the development and continuation of the NAFI Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) and Certified Vehicle Fire and Explosion Investigator (CVFI) programs. – Ron Hopkins, President, NAFI

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science has approved the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator for inclusion on the OSAC Registry, which serves as a trusted repository of high-quality, science-based standards and guidelines for forensic practice. This is the first personnel qualification standard and the second NFPA document to be included on the OSAC Registry.

OSAC, which is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is working to strengthen forensic science by facilitating the development of discipline-specific, science-based standards and guidelines for a broad array of forensic disciplines. To be posted to the OSAC Registry, standards and guidelines must have been developed using a consensus-based process and must pass a review of technical merit by forensic practitioners, academic researchers, statisticians and measurement scientists. Continue Reading…

Source: NIST.gov

1906, Dec 6th:  Monongah coal mine disaster

In West Virginia’s Marion County, an explosion in a network of mines owned by the Fairmont Coal Company in Monongah kills 361 coal miners. It was the worst mining disaster in American history.

In 1883, the creation of the Norfolk and Western Railway opened a gateway to the untapped coalfields of southwestern West Virginia. New towns sprung up in the region virtually overnight as European immigrants and African Americans from the south poured into southern West Virginia in pursuit of a livelihood from the new industry.

By the late 19th century, West Virginia, now a national leader in the production of coal, fell far behind other major coal-producing states in regulating mining conditions. In addition to poor economic conditions, West Virginia had a higher mine death rate than any other state. Nationwide, a total of 3,242 Americans were killed in mine accidents in 1907. In ensuing decades, the United Mine Workers of America labor union and sympathetic legislators forced safety regulations that brought a steady decline in death rates in West Virginia and elsewhere.

Source: History.com