A Guide for Investigating Fire and Arson
This handbook is intended as a guide to recommended practices for the collection and preservation of evidence at fire/arson
Follow Agency Policies!
Actions taken following these guides should be performed in accordance with department policies and procedures and federal
and state laws.
Jurisdictional, logistical or legal conditions may preclude the use of particular procedures contained herein.
Fires are destructive, spreading as they grow and consuming the evidence of their initiation. Putting out fires and finding
out how they started involves public officials and private groups — such as fire departments, emergency medical services and
law enforcement. Law enforcement and fire service departments must always determine the cause of the fire, whether arson or
accidental, in order to identify hazards and dangerous practices and prevent future fires. Many fires can be prevented through
public education — for instance, educating people on safe practices for using room heaters or other gas and electric devices.
Not every portion of this document may be applicable to all fires. It is at the discretion of responding personnel (depending
on their responsibilities, as well as the purpose and scope of their duties) to apply the procedures recommended in this Guide
to a particular incident. Some of the procedures described in this Guide may not be performed in the sequence described or
may be performed simultaneously.
Call in Help!
For potentially devastating situations, such as biological weapons or radiological or chemical threats, contact the appropriate
Steps in this guide include:
 NIJ's Crime Scene guides were created by multidisciplinary technical working groups of content area experts from across the
United States. Learn more.
Date Created: June 1, 2009