What are some of the obstacles investigators face while documenting arson scenes?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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 Arson investigators face a number of obstacles in documenting arson scenes.  Let us look at two of the most important.

First, of course, is the inherently dangerous nature of many arson scenes.  The investigator would like to be on the scene as soon as possible so that evidence will not be lost.  However, the arson scene may well still have hot spots that will be dangerous.  There may also be danger from structural damage to the building caused by the fire.  Thus, investigators have to be worried about safety.

The second major obstacle is called spoliation.  This is what happens when evidence is destroyed by the act of fighting the fire.  Of course, fighting a fire can be intrusive and destructive.  It is possible that the water from firefighters’ hoses will destroy evidence.  Firefighters might also spoil evidence in an effort to ensure their own safety.  For example, a firefighter might turn off the burner on a gas stove so as to ensure that it would not leak any more gas out into the house.  By doing so, the firefighter would be spoiling evidence that might have shed light on how the fire started.

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