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Truex, Thomas H. Preserving Charred Documents. Fire and Arson Investigator. Vol. 46. No. 3 (March 1996). p 26+.

Abstract: The author asserts the importance of paying careful attention to preserving charred documents, describing how he lost one such document when it blew away from him and broke apart, rendering it useless. And while he had photographed it, conventional photography cannot capture the details or text in such documents.

Common paper does not usually survive a fire. But glossy paper, such as that found in magazines, does, due to its high clay content.

To stabilize totally charred paper, the author utilizes a fast-drying lacquer, spraying it overhead and allowing the falling mist to coat the document. After several applications, the document will begin to firm up and can withstand a direct spray. The humidity will determine how fast the spray dries. Also, the lacquer's sheen will facilitate the reading of the text.

With enough applications, the document will be firm enough to pick up and place in an evidence container. Shoe boxes lined with gauze work well, and the box should be covered and then taken to an evidence storage facility.

For more information, contact:
International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)
300 Broadway Suite 100
St. Louis, MO 63102-2808
Phone: 314-621-1966

 
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