The Arson Research Project presented its latest report and the results of its most recent research to the International Symposium on Fire Investigation, Science and Technology (ISFI) at the University of Maryland in October 2012. The presentation illustrated the affects of various cognitive biases in fire investigations and the horrible outcomes of mixing the roles of forensic fire examiner with criminal investigator. Measuring the Impact of Cognitive Bias in Fire Examinations highlights the results of independent research conducted by The Arson Research Project, which confirms the influence of expectation bias in fire scene examination. Moreover, the research reveals that public sector fire investigators who act as both forensic scientist and criminal detective are more likely to arrive at unreliable conclusions and to show greater confidence in those conclusions than their private sector colleagues. In a companion report, Case Study Review of Cognitive Bias in Fire Investigation, The Arson Research Project reviews three arson cases where the conclusions of the fire investigators were strongly influenced by cognitive biases. The cases of George Souliotes, Amanda Gutweiler and Susan Lukjan are carefully examined, exposing the subtle yet powerful impact of expectation bias, confirmation bias, selective re-examination and role bias.
In October 2011, with the generous financial assistance of the San Mateo County Private Defender Program the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, The Arson Research Project conducted live-fire research in Palo Alto, CA. The goal was to compare fire patterns and maximum room temperatures created by fires allowed to burn beyond flashover in both the absence and presence of an ignitable liquid. More>>
Test of the TIF 8800 Combustible Gas Detector in a Post-Flashover Environment
At the Soulotes fire scene in January 1997, fire investigators used a Combustible Gas Detector to confirm the presence of liquid accelerant. According to trial testimony of fire investigators, positive readings were obtained in the garage, kitchen and living room of the house. All of the areas of the house where the positive readings were obtained had experienced flashover conditions.
The purpose of the testing was to examine the reliability of the TIF 8800 in detecting the presence of an ignitable liquid in a post-flashover fire scene.