Volume 49, Issue 4 (July 2004)
The Evaluation of the Extent of Transporting or "Tracking" an Identifiable Ignitable Liquid (Gasoline) Throughout Fire Scenes During the Investigative Process
Tests have determined that boots or shoes of individuals at a fire scene do not transport sufficient contaminants (“tracking”) through the fire scene to produce a positive laboratory result for the presence of gasoline in a fire scene that was not present at the time of the fire. Questions about the validity of forensic laboratory results have been raised on the basis that low-level gasoline residues detected in the laboratory samples could have been the result of transporting the residue by footwear contaminated from the fire scene (“tracking”). The data collected in this study establish that "tracking" does not lead to false-positive laboratory results. Canines trained and experienced in the detection of trace ignitable liquid residues were also utilized in this study. The canine results confirmed that properly trained canines show a higher sensitivity than do standard ASTM laboratory techniques for fire debris analysis. In a few cases, canines responded to contamination, but laboratory testing (which is the definitive indicator) did not produce positive results.