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Stickevers, John. The Investigation of Fatal Fires: Views Of the Fire Investigator (Part 1). FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Vol. 55, No. 8. August 1986. pp. 1-5.

Abstract: This article provides an overview of the methods employed by the New York City Fire Department's Bureau of Fire Investigation to investigate fatal fires. A fatal fire investigation actually consists of two separate investigations, the cause of the fire and the cause of the victim's death.

The origin and cause investigation is briefly discussed in this article. The process consists of identifying a fuel source, a heat source, and an event that brings them together. This section also lists common arson motives compiled by the National Fire Academy.

The rest of the article focuses on the investigation of the fatalities. There are three main questions an investigator must answer. First, was the victim alive or deceased when the fire began? Second, if the victim was alive, why did he or she not escape? And third, is the victim really the person he or she is believed to be? The medical examiner assists greatly in answering these main questions.

The article discusses how to examine the body. The location and position should be recorded and the body should be photographed prior to removal. The clothing and any other characteristics that may reveal the person's activities should be noted. Any signs of violence prior to or after death should also be recorded.

Witness interviewing and evidence collection techniques are also explained in the article. Once all evidence has been gathered, the cause of the fire can be determined. After a conclusion has been reached, the investigation will end or continue. In either instance, a complete report must be filed.

For more information, contact:
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
FBI Academy
Madison Building, Room 209
Quantico, VA 22135

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