Spoliation and its Impact on Fire Investigation

Richard Kovarsky, P.E., CFEI, CFI
Pyro-Technical Investigations, USA

Presented at the International Symposium on Fire Investigation Science and Technology, 2018


There have been many advances in fire investigation over the past 30 years. These advances have seen the profession grow from an art based upon unsupported and untested theories and guidelines to a more rigorous discipline rooted in science and objective, tested theories and methodologies. This has been evidenced by the progression of documents such as NFPA 921 and 1033 and by the latest texts, such as those by Lentini and Gorbett. The changes brought about by these documents have had a significant impact on the profession of fire investigation, the manner in which fires are investigated and the basis for determining the origin and cause of a fire. These are all welcome changes. However, fire investigation is not only a profession, it is also a business. One of the areas that has resulted in significant impact on the business side of fire investigation has been the concept of spoliation of evidence. It has progressed from a little known idea to becoming a driver for the manner in which fires are investigated. This paper will look at the ways that the concept of spoliation has affected the business side of the profession.

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