(Received 9 July 1996; accepted 19 December 1996)
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An overall scheme is presented for the comprehensive analysis of flammable and combustible liquid residues in fire debris, mainly utilizing passive adsorption onto Tenax TA followed by thermal desorption. Records of all suspected arson cases submitted to the author's laboratory for analysis during a 12 month period have been reviewed and results tabulated. Information included location of fire incident, type and frequency of sample exhibit items, results of analysis, and the interrelationships between each of these factors. A total of 1040 items were examined from 437 cases. Fires within residential premises and motor vehicles accounted for the largest group of exhibits submitted. Flammable or combustible liquid residues were detected in 47.4% of items, with petrol the most common ignitable liquid. As a group, fabric items, carpets, and plastics exhibited the highest incidence of flammable or combustible liquid residues, and ashen debris and soil the lowest.
Forensic scientist, Graduate Diploma Applied Science, Division of Analytical Laboratories, Lidcombe, New South Wales
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