Kitchen Fires

fire debris analysisSource Matching & Potential Exposure

Materials involved in a fire such as plastics, resins, glues and wood produce a pattern of byproducts as they burn from the combination of fuel, material and heat. Just as gasoline can be identified, the smoke and soot source of a damaged area can be matched through the pattern analysis of aldehydes from fire debris.

Aldehydes are compounds produced as a result of incomplete combustion. Depending on the chemical makeup of the fuel burned, the fire produces different aldehydes along with soot. A major of advantage of aldehyde analysis is the sensitivity of the analytical technique. High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) provides very low levels of detection making it effective in sensitive situations.

Kitchen Fire investigations come with extensive claims of damage. Claims difficult to prove or disprove. Confirming the soot and smoke in an area of concern came from the fire source (the kitchen) has been the historical challenge. Previously the process of evaluating the extent of Kitchen Fire damage and exposure has been subjective. Doing so effectively, efficiently and with Forensic Evidence is our answer.

By collecting a sample from the source area and samples from at least two areas of concern, a determination can be made. Ex. If the supposed source of the soot is a grease fire and the areas of concern were caused by MAPP gas or candle soot, the patterns won’t match.

Comparing the patterns of aldehydes created from the source and any areas of concern, this forensic investigation may determine the spread of soot and contamination caused by the suspected source. Further sampling and investigation may identify alternate sources

Another contaminant of concern: Acid Gases. Acid gases are associated with the burning of synthetic or man-made materials including plastics and adhesives. Acid Gases produce destructive vapors extremely harmful to electronics and other devices. Excessive acid residuals would not be expected in cases where grease or oil was the sole fuel source.

Presence of elevated levels of acid gas residues in other “sooty” areas of the home may indicate that the soot originated from a source other than the grease fire itself.

Observation and expertise at a Kitchen Fire scene by an experienced field investigator along with this type of specialized forensic examination in the laboratory is the most appropriate way for correct determination of the event.