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Incendiary Devices

NCJ Number
E A Pelletier; R A Prejean; R L Taylor; S W Polverini; D W Roche; M Kaplan
Date Published
9 pages
Although most arsonists set only one fire and are unaware of investigative techniques which can lead to their detection, fire investigators must increasingly be aware of the unique and unusual devices now being used to ignite fires and of the larger dollar values of losses involved.
Arsonists have previously tried to have fires attributed to faulty heating equipment, careless smoking, cooking fires, and other accidents. However, million dollar fires involving computer equipment or other expensive items require sophisticated techniques. Arsonists often use timing devices to delay the ignition in order to establish an alibi. They may also use incendiary devices to start second or third fires in order to insure more complete burnings. Electrical devices may include a specially prepared light bulb, an altered fuse or circuit breaker, or wires connecting an automobile's side marker lights to the filler tube on the gas tank. Mechanical devices may use a wind-up alarm clock as a motor or may involve placing a lit cigarette between the matches and cover of an ordinary matchbook. Many chemical devices are also used. To be successful, arson investigators must be constantly alert for the unexpected. Four references are listed.