Some of the most challenging scenes to process involve suspected arson. Such scenes call for the special expertise of an arson investigator. But just because an arson investigator will process the scene doesnít mean that the crime scene officer doesnít have a role. The CSO is still responsible for collecting general evidence at the scene and also provides valuable assistance to the arson investigator. And by working with the arson investigator, you gain valuable knowledge that will aid you in future cases. Letís take a look at the basics you need when youíre called to an arson scene.

First, if you arrive at a scene and suspect arson, immediately call in an arson investigator. The fire department or state fire marshalís office has specialists who can investigate the cause of the fire. If itís arson, they can process the scene. Donít hesitate to call in these experts. I had a scene at a rural house that I thought was arson. I could see four points in the basement where the fire started. What I didnít know was that the house used propane; when propane ignites, it stays low to the ground. In this case, an accidental spark had ignited the propane, causing the fire. Without the arson investigatorís help, I wouldnít have had an accurate picture of what had happened. If an arson investigator isnít available, do your best with the knowledge you have to document and process the scene thoroughly.

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