Forensic Fire Investigation – Understanding the Crime of Arson

Fire has different meaning in different cultures, in some, where it represents the cleansing, renewal and purity, in the others it represents death and destruction. Hypnotized and always attracted to fire, humans have always wanted to play with its power, Earlier used for protection and survival now this is used for killing and in weapons of mass destruction ranging from missiles and bombs to grenades. In case of arson properties, wild forests or abandoned buildings are willingly burnt down to cause destruction. The reasons for committing this crime is varied, could be to take revenge or just for satisfaction.

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Understanding such a crime is extremely complicated, but the primary reasons of committing these crimes should be explored to understand the crime of arson better. A kind of Arson is committed when a terror group blows any building, car etc. to induce terror in the minds of people or to make a political statement. In layman’s language any terrorist activity involving a blast could be considered an arson although burning of the object is secondary motive and primary could be taking lives or creating panic.
Another reason could be taking revenge on an individual by burning his property or a place the subject associates with. Torching such building could not only harm the property but also the people in it at that time. Many of the arson crimes are committed because of this reason. Some greedy individuals may burn down a home or sometimes a warehouse top get the insurance claim on the particular property and building. This is a means of fast money for the individuals and is totally illegal. This is done when the market value of the property is much lesser than the insurance claim. Other times the goods within the property are removed prior and claim on those goods (which were actually never destroyed) is demanded. It becomes extremely difficult to make sure the reason of fire.

Many people have psychological attraction towards fire. They like to see things get burned and thus take joy in torching things and buildings. This mental attraction towards fire could result in destroying natural resources like forests or public and private property. Many times a building is burnt so that the person of group inside the building can be killed. This generally is preceded by blocking all exits to ensure that the person dies. We all have heard many times in newspapers that criminals generally torch up places and objects so that the crime committed can not be traced back to them. The basic motive is to hide a previous crime, which could be murder or theft. Burning a place down would result in destruction of all major proofs like finger prints, biological proofs, weapons or documents.

Once we have understood the different kinds of arson based on the motive, we can observe and then conclude which are more serious than the other. Many times the result desired (or what happened) determines the intensity of the crime. For example if by burning of a building I intended to kill a group of 40 people would be much more serious than, burning the same building to get insurance claim over it. Thus forensic fire investigation is not just complicated but can reveal most important clues to find and punish the criminals.