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The Courts

Arson Science Rewritten 152

An anonymous reader handed us a link to an AP story about advances in the science of arson investigation. Many assumptions about fire, long held by investigators, have been overturned in recent years as scientists have come to understand concepts like 'flashover'. The repercussions of these findings is having an effect not unlike the use of DNA in crime-solving; people are being set free, and old cases are being re-examined. From the article: "Significantly, flashover can create very hot and very fast-moving fires. And it can occur within just a few minutes, dashing the concept that only arson fires fueled by accelerants can quickly rage out of control. The studies began to chip away at the old beliefs -- critics call them myths -- but it took years. Through the 1980s, texts at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., still taught the traditional techniques. It wasn't until 1992, when a guide to fire investigations by the National Fire Protection Association -- 'NFPA921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations' -- clearly laid out, in a document relied upon by authorities nationwide, that the earlier beliefs were wrong."

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