Barone, Frank, et al. Fatal Fires: Accidental, Homicide, Or Suicide?
July 1984. Fire and Arson Investigator. Volume 37, Issue 3. pp 43-44. March
Abstract: This research paper discusses the investigator's role
in a fatal fire investigation. The priorities of the investigator are scene
preservation, evaluation, victim identification, and introduction of the
The first priority of the investigator should be scene security. All
evidence must be protected, including the dead bodies. Bodies should be
moved if they are in danger of further damage. If the body must be moved
for protection, it should be photographed first, so the investigator has
a record of the victim's precise position and appearance.
Evaluating the fire scene is the investigator's next concern. The entire
scene, including the structure and victims should be examined and photographed.
All conditions and circumstances should be questioned, and all possibilities
Victim identification is the next step for investigators. Relatives identify
most bodies. If the no relatives are known or the body is burned beyond
recognition, a pathologist becomes involved. The pathologist will use fingerprints
and dental records to identify the victims.
The pathologist or medical examiner should examine the body to determine
the cause and time of death. The autopsy will reveal whether the victim
died before the fire or as a direct result of the fire. The pathologist
can provide evidence to support arson-homicide theories or suicide theories.
However, the pathologist's finding alone cannot determine the cause of the
fire. Their findings can only be used to corroborate the findings of the
For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway, Ste. 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808
Phone: (314) 621-1966