Determining Accelerant in Arson Cases

Temecula, Murrieta and Hemet Arson Defense Attorney

In the past it was difficult to determine if a fire had occurred because of accidental causes or because of arson. Experts would look at things like burn patterns, marks on the walls and widows. Certain types of cracks in the window glass and more were considered ways to determine the cause of a fire.

An experiment was performed during the 1990s to determine the accuracy of arson evidence. This was done by recording abandoned houses being intentionally set on fire. People who claimed to be fire experts did not accurately determine the location or presence of accelerant where a test fire started 50 percent of the time. At that time interpreting the evidence in an arson case was subjective and not very scientific.

Today an experienced arson investigator will know what evidence should be taken and where it will be located. Investigators can use electronic sniffers to determine burn areas. Once the samples have been obtained, they can then be sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine if an accelerant was used.

Some evidence taken from the fire scene will be placed into a metal can. A carbon strip will then be put into the can. The can and carbon strip will then be warmed. If a volatile material is present, it will be absorbed into the carbon strip. The strip is then taken from the can and cleaned with a solvent. Any accelerant in the evidence will now be in the solvent. The next step is to use headspace gas chromatography. The gas created inside a headspace gas chromatography is broken down to its individual components and identified. If an accelerant was used, it will be easily identified. Using this method to determine accelerant is accurate with only 1/1000th of a drop of accelerant. These results can then be used as physical evidence of arson or an accidental fire.

If you've been falsely accused of causing arson in Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar, Menifee, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Perris, Banning, Corona or Riverside, you should contact us today. At the Law of Nicolai Cocis & Associates, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to make certain you get the best legal defense possible.

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