Cafe, Tony. Photographing the fire scene. National Fire & Arson
Report. Vol 16 No 4 (December 1997). p 6-7+.
Abstract: This article discusses some basic concepts to be followed
when photographing a fire scene. Photographs are invaluable in a courtroom
in documenting the scene and communicating what was observed. With today's
automatic cameras it is possible to take good photographs without extensive
photographic skills. This article will focus not on how to take photographs,
but more on what should be photographed.
The first area discussed is that of photographing the exterior. All sides
of the building should be photographed as well as exposures, access, utilities,
etc. Evidence such as tire tracks, foot prints and explosion debris should
also be photographed in detail and to show their relation to the building.
Panoramic views are very useful and can be created by either joining
together a sequence of photographs or using a wide angle lens or a disposable
panoramic camera. Aerial or overhead photographs are valuable.
Interior photographs are generally more difficult to shoot than exterior
ones for a number of reasons. A high quality flash is necessary.
All rooms involved or impacted by the fire should be photographed. A
good sequence to follow is going to from areas of least damage to those
of most damage. Adjacent areas should also be photographed to completely
document the scene.
All aspects of the rooms (walls, floor, ceiling, doors, windows) should
be photographed by either using a wide angle lens or taking a series of
When photographing the area of origin, photos should be taken before,
during and after excavation. It may be necessary to take detailed photographs
of areas such as pour patterns created by accelerants.
Burn patterns should be photographed, as well as any appliances that
may be suspect.
When taking photos of doors, it is preferable to take a picture of the
door in the position it was found. Burn and soot patterns around the door
should also be photographed. Similar considerations should also be made
Cars that have burned should ideally be photographed at the scene. The
exterior should be photographed from all sides, and then the three compartments-the
engine, passenger and trunk- should be photographed. The engine should be
photographed in detail.
Mr. Tony Cafe is the proprietor of Australian company, T.C. Forensic.
Its primary activities include determining the causes of fires and conducting
laboratory analysis of fire debris samples for liquid accelerants. His educational
background includes a bachelor's and master's degree in Applied Science
from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Mr. Cafe has fifteen
years experiences as a fire scene forensic examiner. He has conducted approximately
1200 fire scene examinations and analyzed approximately 3000 fire debris
samples. (Profile from The National Fire and Arson Report)