Arson and Fire Investigation

Private investigators fulfill a wide variety of investigative duties, helping federal and local law enforcement to solve a variety of crimes. Among the types of investigation a private detective might undertake is finding the cause of arson-related fires.

Arson-Related Fires

Arson causes billions in damages across the United States every year, but sadly, less than 20 percent of arsonists are found and arrested. Arson isn’t applied to every fire—it’s a term that relates only to fires that are set deliberately. Before a fire is ruled as arson-related, all accidental causes must have been ruled out as a possibility.

Because arson must be clearly demonstrated to have been willful and with the intent to cause harm, it can be difficult to pursue legal charges. This is where a private investigator comes into the picture.

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Investigating Arson

Once a fire has been ruled to be arson, arson investigations must be undertaken to discover the probable cause and find the culprit. For this reason, many arson investigators have experience in dealing with fire and its causes. They know how to look at the damage caused by fire to determine where the ignition point was, what kind of fuel was likely used, and how the fire developed.

It can be nearly impossible to gather hard evidence of arson. Usually in this kind of criminal activity, the evidence is burned up, and what’s left can also be destroyed by efforts to extinguish the blaze. Often, firefighters are the best resource for gathering information. They can provide a number of observations that can help to reconstruct what happened as well as deducing arson.

Arson Investigation

How Arson is Determined

There are a number of signs that could indicate arson as the cause of a fire: high heat stress (possibly indicating a major flashpoint), unusual burn patterns, multiple areas where the fire may have begun, evidence of accelerants, and the color of the smoke.

Besides the behavior of the fire itself, there can be environmental signs. These include a lack of valuables in the building, suspicious behavior on the part of the property owner, damage to fire suppression systems, windows that appear to have been propped or cloth trails inside can be signs that a fire was set deliberately.

Reasons for Arson

There are a variety of reasons why people might commit arson. These include vandalism, revenge, hiding evidence of another crime, political motivations, mental illness or even pure thrill-seeking. Some property owners burn their own property in an effort to make money. Others are looking for attention or trying to make themselves a hero by “rescuing” others from the fire.

How Private investigators Can Help

Private detectives help with arson investigations in a number of ways. They can help to investigate the circumstances of a fire to help property owners who have lost a great deal from a blaze to discover the culprit. This can not only save money for the property owners, but can provide vital closure to the situation.

Other private investigators work for insurance companies, looking into the causes of fires to make sure that there are no suspicious causes behind the incident. Arson costs insurance companies billions of dollars every year, and a private eye can help to save money and put criminals behind bars.

Finally, sometimes private detectives take the other side. If someone has been unfairly accused of arson, a private investigator can take the case to prove their innocence. Private eyes aren’t always just about finding criminals—sometimes they’re about helping innocent people prove their innocence as well.

If you think this sounds like an exciting and rewarding path, check out our guidelines on how to become a private detective in your state!

Online Criminal Justice and Private Investigator Programs

Online Criminal Justice and Private Investigator Programs

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Choose your area of study and receive free information about programs you are interested in. Private investigators are used by law firms, law enforcement, insurance companies, as well as individuals to conduct investigations to build criminal and civil cases. A degree related to criminal justice could benefit an aspiring private investigator greatly. Request information from multiple schools to find the best program and educational opportunity for you!