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In the course of an arson investigation one of the standard procedures is, when possible, to collect the clothing of arson suspects and have them tested for ignitable liquids. The hypothesis being that if the clothing tests positive for the same ignitable liquids that are found in the fire debris, it is good circumstantial evidence to place the suspect at the scene with an ignitable liquid.

This procedure of testing arson suspect's clothing is based on the premise that ignitable liquids will reside on the clothing long enough for the laboratory to be able to test and identify them. While it is certainly possible to do this successfully, the fire investigator should understand what limits or variations exist with this type of testing. It is a fact that eventually all common ignitable liquids will evaporate and be undetectable on clothing. The question then becomes "what is the golden time where a successful clothing sample can be collected?"

To better understand this process, a series of experiments were conducted in EFI Global's Forensic Laboratory in Rocklin, CA. In these experiments we attempt to identify and rank the contributing factors needed for the successful identification of ignitable liquids on clothing samples. Some possible factors to examine are listed below.


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EFI Global is a full-service Engineering, Fire Investigation, Environmental, Health and Safety, and specialty consulting firm. Over the last four decades, they have grown from a boutique firm to become a recognized leader in engineering failure analysis, origin and cause investigations, and environmental consulting. This expertise coupled with the extensive coverage of our 27 national offices, more than 400 professionals, and global work abroad capability allows EFI Global to deliver timely responses that consistently meets their clients' expectations.

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