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Forensic Fire Death Investigation: Investigating the Effects of Body Mass and Decomposition Sequence on Fire Burn Speed and Patterns and the Development of Performance Standards

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,087,985)

This study will provide insight into how time, temperature, fire environment, body mass, and decomposition contribute to the observed differences in burn patterns and skeletal destruction in structural and vehicle fires. Furthermore, the study investigates the use of arc surveys to help determine the origin of structure the fires. We will leverage the expertise of a diverse team of fire death investigators, firefighters, law enforcement agents, electrical engineers, and anthropologists to address several specific research problems that have been identified associated with fatal fire scenes and then utilize this information to develop and validate detailed training aids (i.e., manuals and videos) and performance standards. In addition, the study will result in a large skeletal collection of individuals burned under known parameters using national firefighter response times and procedures which will be available for research and training. The project will be conducted over a three-year period using forty-two donated bodies set up in four structure and two vehicle scenes each year. Detailed thermocouple, 3D point cloud data, and video will be collected during currently scheduled fire death investigation training courses at Texas State University in conjunction with the Collin County Fire Death Investigators Association, Inc. This approach will reduce costs, take advantage of the presence of multidisciplinary researchers and stakeholders, and provide additional information for developing and testing fatal fire scene protocol. Detailed performance standards will be developed and validated for processing each of the scenes. Likewise, protocol will be developed for anthropologist for the documentation and analysis of burned human bone. The knowledge gained from this project will help guide and inform policy and practices associated with fire death investigations and lead to a structured training course and performance standards that can be used by fire departments, crime scene investigators, and other forensic scientists for proficiency training/testing. The project also meets areas of need of several National Institute of Justice Goals and the National Institute of Standards and Technology project list for arch mapping and validation of origin and cause determination protocol. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 27, 2022