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
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