Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Fire Investigation

The manner in which a motor vehicle fire is initiated and subsequently spreads is dependent on a number of complex, interdependent, phenomena including combustion kinetics, heat transfer and fluid dynamics. Because the damage caused by a fire is coupled to these phenomena, damage patterns can sometimes be used to understand certain characteristics about the fire. In many cases, the goal is to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

In this highly interactive, hands-on course, participants will acquire a working knowledge of fire science and be able to use this knowledge to assess possible ignition mechanisms, evaluate burn patterns, and analyze fire spread. This seminar will also explore the interpretation and limitations of the physical evidence from a fire scene. The approach to collecting and retaining important physical evidence, and laboratory techniques to examine this evidence, will also be described. As an in-class project, participants will have the opportunity to inspect several burned vehicles, predict cause and origin and compare findings to the actual cause and origin of the fire, as shown in burn test videos.

What Will You Learn

By attending this seminar, you will be able to:
  • Apply fundamental combustion concepts to evaluate possible ignition mechanisms, burn patterns, and fire spread
  • Recognize the value and limitations of burn patterns to determine the area of origin of a fire
  • Describe the typical burning characteristics of motor vehicle fires
  • Identify and retain important physical evidence during a structure or vehicle fire inspection
  • Utilize laboratory techniques to evaluate physical evidence recovered from a fire scene

Is This Course For You

This seminar is designed for engineers, scientists, investigators and consultants involved in the investigation of vehicle fires.

Materials Provided

This data is not available at this time

Course Requirements

This data is not available at this time

Topics

DAY ONE
  • Combustion Fundamentals
    • Global and elemental combustion reactions
    • Heat release due to combustion
    • Combustion kinetics
    • General ignition mechanism
    • Flame structure
  • Combustion Properties
    • Flammability limits
    • Flash point
    • Auto ignition
    • Piloted and unpiloted ignition of solids
  • Ignition Mechanisms
    • Electrical sparks and arcs
    • Mechanical sparks
    • Resistive heating
    • Hot surfaces
    • Thermal radiation
  • Laboratory Demonstration
    • Flammability limits
    • Spark ignition
  • Vehicle Systems and Associated Ignition Mechanisms
    • Electrical system
    • Fuel system
    • Lubricant systems
    • Exhaust system
    • Brake system/overheated bearings
  • Class Inspection of Vehicle 1
    • Students to determine the cause and origin of the fire
DAY TWO
  • Structures/Garages and Associated Ignition Mechanisms
    • Electrical system
    • Power tools/equipment
    • Consumer electronics/extension cords
    • Heaters/cooking appliances
    • Oily rags/spontaneous combustion
    • Smoking materials
  • Fire Dynamics in Structures/Garages
    • Fire growth rate and flame propagation
    • Effect of fuel load and ventilation
    • Flashover
    • Temperature versus time
  • Fire Dynamics in Vehicles
    • Fire growth rate and flame propagation
    • Effect of fuel load and ventilation
    • Flashover
    • Temperature versus time
  • Burn Pattern Case Studies
    • Structure burn patterns
    • Vehicle burn patterns
  • Melted Aluminum Patterns
    • Correlation with fuel load
    • Utility in vehicle fire investigations
  • Oxidation Patterns
    • High temperature oxidation
    • Atmospheric corrosion
    • Effect of combustion products
    • Appearance of iron oxides
    • Utility in vehicle fire investigations
  • Class Inspection of Vehicle 2
    • Students to determine the cause and origin of the fire
DAY THREE
  • Beaded Copper Wires
    • Causes of melted copper wire
    • Arcing-through-char
    • Arc mapping
  • Fire Scene Processing
    • Information gathering
    • Scene documentation
    • Evidence collection
  • Laboratory Examinations
    • Use of X-ray images
    • Wire cleaning and visual examination
    • Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
    • Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS)
  • Class Inspection of Vehicle 3
    • Students to determine the cause and origin of the fire
  • Summary