Engineering of Arson Forensics and Fire Debris Investigation: The Scientific, Social, and Curricular Impact
Arson and intentional fires account for significant property losses and over 400 civilian deaths yearly in the United States. However, clearance rates for arson offenses remain low relative to other crimes. This issue can be attributed in part to the challenges associated with performing an arson investigation, in particular the collection and interpretation of reliable data. PLOT-cryoadsorption, a dynamic headspace sampling technique developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was proposed as an alternate technique for extracting ignitable liquid residues for analysis. The method was generally shown to be robust, flexible, precise, and accurate for a variety of applications. The possibility of using a real-time in situ monitor for screening samples was also discussed. This work, conducted by an undergraduate researcher, has implications in educational curricula as well as in the field of forensic science.