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Barone, Frank, et al. Fatal Fires: Accidental, Homicide, Or Suicide? July 1984. Fire and Arson Investigator. Volume 37, Issue 3. pp 43-44. March 1987.

Abstract: This research paper discusses the investigator's role in a fatal fire investigation. The priorities of the investigator are scene preservation, evaluation, victim identification, and introduction of the medical examiner.

The first priority of the investigator should be scene security. All evidence must be protected, including the dead bodies. Bodies should be moved if they are in danger of further damage. If the body must be moved for protection, it should be photographed first, so the investigator has a record of the victim's precise position and appearance.

Evaluating the fire scene is the investigator's next concern. The entire scene, including the structure and victims should be examined and photographed. All conditions and circumstances should be questioned, and all possibilities considered.

Victim identification is the next step for investigators. Relatives identify most bodies. If the no relatives are known or the body is burned beyond recognition, a pathologist becomes involved. The pathologist will use fingerprints and dental records to identify the victims.

The pathologist or medical examiner should examine the body to determine the cause and time of death. The autopsy will reveal whether the victim died before the fire or as a direct result of the fire. The pathologist can provide evidence to support arson-homicide theories or suicide theories. However, the pathologist's finding alone cannot determine the cause of the fire. Their findings can only be used to corroborate the findings of the investigator.

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

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