Fire Debris Investigation

A proposed ASTM International standard will aid in the identification of ignitable liquids in fire debris. ASTM’s forensic sciences committee (E30) is developing the proposed standard (WK64631). 

The proposed standard makes recommendations on which existing ASTM International fire debris analysis standards would be best to use during investigations, aiding fire debris analysts as they prepare and examine evidence. 

“Fire debris analysis involves the identification of ignitable liquids in items recovered during a fire investigation, such as debris from the area of origin of a fire, victim and suspect clothes, a gasoline can, or a bottle with liquid and a cloth wick, also known as a Molotov cocktail,” says ASTM International member Michelle Evans, U.S. Department of Justice. “The proposed standard is designed to aid forensic examiners in the extraction, analysis, and classification of ignitable liquids and residues in fire debris samples that are submitted to forensic labs.”

Evans notes that the proposed standard was originally developed within the Fire Debris and Explosives subcommittee of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science, and was a based on a document originally produced by the Technical/Scientific Working Group for Fire and Explosion Analysis (T/SWGFEX). 

“While there are numerous ASTM International standards on fire debris and ignitable fluids, there is currently no general document to tie together all the related standards,” says Evans. “The purpose of this proposed standard is to serve as an over-arching guide that will encompass all current and future standards related to ignitable liquid extraction, analysis, and classification.”

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