This article describes and reports the testing of a Bayesian soft classification method combined with target factor analysis (TFA) for the analysis of fire debris data.
The method relies on analysis of the average mass spectrum across the chromatographic profile (i.e., the total ion spectrum, TIS) from multiple samples taken from a single fire scene. A library of TIS from reference ignitable liquids with assigned ASTM classification is used as the target factors in TFA. The class-conditional distributions of correlations between the target and predicted factors for each ASTM class are represented by kernel functions and analyzed by Bayesian decision theory. The soft classification approach assists in assessing the probability that ignitable liquid residue from a specific ASTM E1618 class, is present in a set of samples from a single fire scene, even in the presence of unspecified background contributions from pyrolysis products. The method is demonstrated with sample data sets and then tested on laboratory-scale burn data and large-scale field test burns. The overall performance achieved in laboratory and field test of the method is approximately 80-percent correct classification of fire debris samples. (publisher abstract modified)