The Evolution of Fire Investigation and Its Impact on Arson Cases
Journal Article by Kevin Weitzel
Arson investigation is an ever changing field of science and crime investigation. Arson investigators need to be highly educated in their field and unfortunately most are not properly educated resulting in many high profile cases being unfinished or citizens being wrongly convicted. This paper will cover an article by John J. Lentini discussing these topics.
Fire investigation is a complex field of work that unfortunately is not drawing in college graduates because of its low pay scale. This in turn makes being a fire investigator just a matter of learning from the older more experienced fire investigators ...view middle of the document...
In 1994, a group of scientists including John J. Lentini developed a position paper stating that an accelerate detecting canine (ADC) alert was in fact not suitable for a jury to hear but were in fact much more suitable as a means to prove probable cause to keep searching or to start an arson investigation. This paper was confirmed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1996 when an emergency amendment was added to the NFPA 921. This allowed the courts to be notified that an alert from an ADC did not constitute as valid science. Another thing that NFPA 921 accomplished was making for fire investigators to be held more accountable for their testimonies and to weed out the hacks from legitimate fire investigators who know how to do their jobs. The guide demands a standard of science and hard evidence to prove anything moving away from the old school hunches and mythology taught by the more elderly fire investigators or the uneducated. This has drastically decreased the number of miscarriages in justice when it comes to arson, although it is still not completely sound.
Investigating and catching arsonists is an important and complex science that is far more complicated than what we once thought. New information and tactics used in fire investigation put much more pressure on the people who investigate the fires but also put far more security in their testimonies that could potentially ruin an innocent person’s life or put the right person behind bars. Fire investigation is still an inexact science and needs to be treated and investigated extremely carefully to ensure a proper outcome in arson cases.