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Delay, Lawrence J. Investigating Automobile Fires. Fire Engineering. October, 1991. pp. 15-16.

Abstract: The National Automobile Theft Bureau provides a five-step investigation procedure for vehicle fires. The five steps in order are: exterior, interior, engine compartment, fuel system, and electrical system.

Investigating the exterior of the car includes inspecting the surrounding areas of the fire scene. The location of the car should be recorded. Most arsons occur in rural areas although an arsonist can certainly start a fire on a city street. Make sure all the parts of the car are in place to determine if the car was stolen for its parts. The burn pattern is also apparent from the exterior of the car, which points to the area of origin.

The interior of the car should be checked for signs of foul play. Investigators should look for the keys to the car or check the ignition for tampering. Samples should be taken of the interior of the car to check for accelerants. The engine compartment should be examined to make sure all parts are present. Check the fuel line to see if they have been loosened, cut, or punctured.

The next step of the investigation is to examine the fuel system. A removed drain plug means fuel has leaked, leaving evidence of burning underneath the vehicle. If there is no evidence of such burning, the fuel may have been removed and used as an accelerant.

The electrical system is often blamed for a majority of vehicle fires. If the evidence points to an electrical fire, the investigator should call an expert because electrical systems are complicated and evidence can easily be destroyed.

For more information, contact:
Fire Engineering
Park 80 West, Plaza 2, 7th Floor
Saddle Brook, NJ 07663,
Phone: (201) 845-0800
Web Site: www.fire-eng.com

 
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