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ATF Fire Research Laboratory: A New Forensic Resource for Fire-Scene Investigations

NCJ Number
Michael L. Donahue
Date Published
January 2002
5 pages
This report describes the development of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Fire Research Laboratory on a 35-acre site in Ammendale, MD.
Currently there are no fire-research facilities in the United States or elsewhere that can provide fire-scene investigation and fire-scene reconstruction assistance to arson investigators. AFT’s new Fire Research Laboratory will conduct forensic research, provide case support for investigators, and will train investigators and prosecutors. The Laboratory has plans to conduct research toward the development of practical tools for fire-scene investigations. Laboratory staff will include scientists with expertise in mechanical, chemical, and electrical materials, fire protection engineers, and experts in physics and metallurgy. The laboratory will be designed to support both standard and unique tests on small- and large-scales. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art hood and exhaust systems, data acquisition systems, and instrumentation to measure heat-release rate, burning rate, and the temperatures of burning materials. State-of-the-art environmental systems will also be in place to clean exhaust air and to retain excessive amounts of smoke until it can be cleaned and exhausted. The technological benefits of such a facility are numerous and include the training of lab personnel to produce accredited/certified fire investigators. The Laboratory will also serve as a central repository of fire-related scientific information related to fire-scene investigation, analysis, and reconstruction. Contact information is provided for additional information.