Appendix II: Twenty Common Ignitable Liquids
used as Fire Accelerants
This Appendix lists the common & chemical names,
chemical formula, definition, important physical properties and common uses
of the most frequently encountered ignitable liquids used as arson accelerants.
Temperatures are rounded to the nearest full degree. Properties are reported
where available from a reliable source.
- (dimethyl ketone, 2-propanone), (C3H6O), flash point -4 degrees F (-20 degrees C); ignition
temperature 869 degrees F (465.4 degrees C); explosive limits 2.6%-13.0%;
vapor density 2.0; specific gravity 0.792; toxicity (3). A volatile, flammable,
colorless, liquid ketone having a fragrant odor and miscible with water,
alcohol, and most oils. Principal uses are as a solvent in lacquers, varnishes,
cosmetics, nail polish remover, and in the mixture of other solvents.
2. Carbon Disulfide
- (carbon disulfide), (CS2) flash point -22 degrees F (-30 degrees C); ignition temperature
212 degrees F (100 degrees C); explosive limits 1.3% to 50%; vapor density
2.6; specific gravity 1.26; toxicity (2). A volatile, flammable, colorless
to yellow liquid with a rotten egg odor. Carbon Disulfide, unlike most of
the other common ignitable liquids, is heavier than water and will sink.
3. Coleman Fuel
- (Coleman fuel C-2538, white gasoline, camping stove fuel, camping lantern
fuel); (chemical formula - Coleman fuel is a mixture of hydrocarbons &
doesn't have a single formula); flash point -27 degrees F (-33 degrees C);
ignition temperature - not reported; explosive limit LEL is 0.7% - UEL not
reported; vapor density 3.7; specific gravity .744; toxicity (3). A straight
run, unrefined, petroleum distillate used in camping stoves and lanterns.
Camp stove fuels in general have a carbon range of C5 - C11.
4. Ethyl Alcohol
- (ethanol, grain alcohol), (C2H5OH), flash point 55 degrees F (13 degrees C); ignition
temp. 689 degrees F (365 degrees C); explosive limits 3.5%-19.0%; vapor
density 1.6; specific gravity 0.8; toxicity (0). A volatile, flammable,
colorless liquid having a pleasant odor and miscible in water and many organic
liquids. Principal uses are in alcoholic beverages, as a solvent in pharmaceuticals,
cleaning preparations, and some antifreezes.
5. Ethyl Ether
- (ether, diethyl ether), (C2H5)2O, flash point -49 degrees F (-45 degrees C); ignition
temperature 356 degrees F (180 degrees C); explosive limits 1.9% - 36%;
vapor density 2.6; specific gravity 0.7; toxicity (2). A volatile, highly
flammable, colorless liquid which forms explosive peroxides under the influence
of air and light and has a sweetish odor and is slightly miscible in water,
methanol, and oils. Principle uses as a solvent in organic synthesis, smokeless
powder and industrial solvents.
6. Fuel oil no. 1-
(kerosene, range oil, coal oil, Jet - A (aviation) fuel); Chemical formula
is a carbon range of C9 - C17; flash point 110 degrees F - 162 degrees F (42 degrees
C - 72 degrees C); ignition temp. 410 degrees F (210 degrees C); explosive
limits 0.7% - 5%; vapor density .7 - 5; specific gravity 0.81; Toxicity
(3). A colorless, combustible, straight run petroleum distillate liquid
having a characteristic odor miscible in petroleum solvents and immiscible
in water. Principal uses as an ingredient in lamp oils, charcoal starter
fluids, jet engine fuels and insecticides. K-1 kerosene has a low sulfur
content and is used in portable space heaters.
7. Fuel oil no. 2
(home heating fuel, diesel fuel), Chemical formula is a carbon range of
flash point 126 degrees F-204 degrees F (52 degrees C- 96 degrees C); ignition
temperature 494F (257C); explosive limits - not reported; vapor density
greater than 1; specific gravity less than 1; toxicity (3). A light brown,
combustible, straight run or cracked petroleum distillate consisting mostly
range hydrocarbons. Principal uses include heating fuel in domestic or commercial
atomizing type burners and as a fuel in diesel engines.
8. Gasoline -
(gas, motor fuel) Chemical formula - gasoline is a blended mixture of aromatic
and aliphatic hydrocarbons; flash point -45 degrees F (-43 degrees C); ignition
temp. 536 degrees F (280 degrees C) for 56 - 60 octane grade; explosive
limits 1.4%-7.6%; vapor density 3.0 - 4.0; specific gravity 0.8; Toxicity
(3). A highly flammable, blended liquid composed of more than 300 volatile
hydrocarbon compounds manufactured from the fractionation or distillation
of petroleum. Gasoline is the most commonly identified ignitable liquid
accelerant reported by American forensic laboratories. Its principal use
is as a fuel in spark ignited, internal combustion engines.
9. Isopropyl alcohol-
(IPA, isopropanol, 2-propanol), (CH3 CHOHCH3), flash point 54 degrees F (12 degrees C); ignition temp.
750 degrees F (399 degrees C); explosive limits 2.5%-12.0%; vapor density
2.1; and specific gravity 0.79; Toxicity (3). A colorless, flammable liquid
which is miscible in water, ether, and alcohol and having a pleasant odor.
Principal uses as an ingredient in lacquers, rubbing alcohol, denaturant
- Refer to Fuel Oil #1. Kerosene is identical to Fuel Oil #1 from an investigator's
- Composition and properties of this category of product vary by manufacturer.
A spirit varnish such as shellac; any of clear or colored synthetic organic
coatings that typically dry to form a film by evaporation of the solvent.
12. Lacquer Thinner
- A mixture of highly volatile solvents, miscible in water, of varying composition
and properties depending on the manufacturer.
13. Methyl alcohol
(methanol, wood alcohol) (CH3OH); flash point 54 degrees F (12 degrees C); ignition
temp. 867 degrees F (484 degrees C); explosive limits 6.7% - 36%; vapor
density 1.1; specific gravity 0.79; toxicity (4). A colorless, flammable,
poisonous liquid having a slight alcohol odor when pure, miscible in water,
ethanol, ketones and most other organic solvents. Principal uses as an ingredient
in antifreeze, dry gas, windshield washer fluids and as a denaturant in
14. Methyl ethyl ketone
(MEK,2-butanone) (CH3COCH2CH3); flash point 16 degrees F ( -9 degrees C); ignition temp.
759 degrees F (404 degrees C); explosive limits 1.9%-10.0%; vapor density
2.5; specific gravity O.8; and toxicity (3). A colorless, flammable liquid
having an acetone-like odor miscible in alcohol, ether, and slightly soluble
in water. Principal use as a solvent in nitrocellulose coatings and lacquers,
paint removers, cements and adhesives and in the manufacture of printed
15. Mineral Spirits
(see paint thinner)
(V M & P) A general term which may describe combustible products such
as mineral spirits or flammable products such as petroleum ether. The IAAI
Forensic Science Committee recommends that the term be avoided. Principle
uses of products in this class include thinner in paints and varnishes and
as a fuel for pocket lighters. Flash point, explosive limits and other properties
vary by manufacturer.
17. Paint Thinner
(mineral spirits), Paint thinner or mineral spirits is a complex petroleum
distillate; flash point range is listed as 104 degrees F (40 degrees C)
- 110 degrees F (43 degrees C); ignition temperature 473 degrees F (245
degrees C); explosive limits 0.8% @ 212 degrees F (100 degrees C); vapor
density 3.9; specific gravity 0.8; toxicity (3). A category of clear, combustible
liquid having petroleum type odor. Mineral spirits are midrange petroleum
distillates ranging from C8 to C12 which is present in many paint thinners,
oil base stains, dry cleaning solvents, and some brands of charcoal starter
fluids. There may be slight variations in the chemical information provided
for different manufacturers.
(methylbenzene, phenylmethane) (C6H5CH3); flash point 40 degrees F (4 degrees C); ignition temp.
896 F (480 degrees C); explosive limits 1.3% -7.0%; vapor density 3.1; specific
gravity 0.8; toxicity (2). A colorless, flammable liquid with a benzene-like
odor, miscible in alcohol, ether, acetone and very slightly soluble in water.
Principal use as a solvent in paints and coatings, paint removers, explosives
(TNT), adhesive solvent for model airplanes, and as a base for polyurethane
(oil of turpentine) (C10H16) - The chemical formula varies with the manufacturer;
flash point 90 degrees F-115 degrees F (32 degrees C - 46 degrees C); ignition
temp. 488 degrees F (253 degrees C); explosive limit (LEL) .8% - (UEL) not
reported ; vapor density less then 1; specific gravity 0.8; toxicity (4).
A colorless, combustible liquid derived from steam distillation of wood
from pine (conifer) trees. Turpentine is miscible in oils, ether, and chloroform.
Principal uses are as a drying agent or as a solvent for thinners of paints,
lacquers, varnishes and used in wax-based polishes and liniments. It is
also used to manufacture certain linoleums, soap, ink, artificial campour
- (dimethylbenzene) C6H4 (CH3)2; flash point 29 degrees F ( - 2 degrees C) ; ignition
temperature 867 degrees F (464 degrees C); explosive limits - not reported
(moderate fire risk) ; vapor density > 1; specific gravity 0.86; toxicity
(4). A colorless, flammable liquid miscible in alcohol and ether, insoluble
in water. Xylene is isolated from crude wood distillate or obtained from
fractional distillation of petroleum or coal tar. Commercial xylene is a
mixture of three isomers, o-, m-, and p-xylene, the m-isomer predominates.
Xylenes, a common chemical, are used for conversion to polyester fibers
and plasticizers in the plastic industry, in aviation gasoline, rubber cements,
automotive enamels, paints and lacquers, and a variety of other commercial
Ignitable Liquid Classification
|CLASS NUMBER (CLASS NAME)
||"PEAK SPREAD" BASED N-ALKANE CARBON NOs (UNEVAPORATED LIQUID)
Light Petroleum Distillates (LPD)
||Petroleum ethers. Pocket lighter fuels, some rubber cement solvents. VM
& P Naphtha. Skelly solvents, some camping fuels.|
||All brands and grades of automotive gasoline, including gasohol.|
Medium Petroleum Distillates (MPD)
||Mineral spirits, some paint thinners, some charcoal starters, "Dry-cleaning"
solvents, some torch fuels. Some solvents for insecticides, polishes, and
some lamp oils.|
||Kerosine, No. 1 fuel oil, Jet-A (aviation) fuel, solvent for some insecticides
and polishes, some paint thinners, some lamp oils.|
Heavy Petroleum Distillates (HPD)
||Diesel fuel. No. 2 fuel oil (home heating oil).|
||Single compounds, turpentine, specialty mixtures which cannot be further
classified into one of the categories below.|
0.1 Oxygenated Solvents
||Alcohols, esters, ketones.|
||Isoparaffin products, some charcoal starters, some copier fluids, some aviation
gasolines, some lamp oils, some solvents for insecticides and polishes,
some camping fuels.|
0.3 Normal alkanes
||Specialty products formulated from normal alkanes. Some lamp oils, some
solvents for insecticides and polishes.|
0.4 Aromatic solvents
||Light, medium, and heavy "aromatic naphtha" used as solvents for
paints and plastics.|
0.5 Naphthenic/paraffinic solvents
||Specialty solvent/fuel produts made from Class 3 or Class 4 distillates
treated to remove normal alkanes and aromatics.|
from A Pocket Guide to Accelerant Evidence Collection, 2nd Edition,
Courtesy Massachusetts Chapter, IAAI. Reprinted
To get the complete guide, click here