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Investigation of Motor Vehicle Fires - Second Edition - A Guide for Law Enforcement, Fire Department, and Insurance Personnel

NCJ Number
L S Cole
Date Published
116 pages
This 1985 update of a guide for law enforcement, fire department, and insurance personnel on the investigation of motor vehicle fires focuses on the use of newer, lighter materials in the manufacture of cars and their effect on flammability and fire behavior.
The book gives background for determining vehicle fire causes, both accidental and deliberate and suggests that before conducting a vehicle fire investigation, one must be familiar with the parts of the vehicle most often involved in fires: engine, fuel system, electrical system, and exhaust system. Determination of the origin of the fire should focus on the area of most intense burning, and systems and materials within that area that will support ignition and sustain continued burning. Fire causes in the engine compartment must be examined for indications of failures in the fuel, emissions, or electrical system. If the interior body of the car is on fire, one must look for smoldering materials or electrical shorts. If the main fire seems to be under the vehicle, frictional causes or heat transmission from the catalytic converter or exhaust should be examined. If burning is intense and no indications of fire generated by the enumerated causes are evident, the possibility of arson should be considered. To prove arson, it is essential that a fire has occurred, that the fire was the result of a criminal act, and that the defendant was responsible for the criminal act. Such factors as motive, intent, absence of mistake or accident, and scheme or design of the suspect must be taken into consideration. Procedures and check lists for insurance investigators are discussed, and factors for establishing a possible motive for arson are enumerated. Special surveys and research on fire causes in automobiles are included, with a focus on particular characteristics of individual vehicle models relating to fire causes and possible repair of vehicle. Charts listing flame colors of different temperatures and melting points of various materials as determinants of causes are included. A glossary of terms and 23 references are provided.


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