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Forensics of Fire and Explosions Critique

Reading the work by Professor Fred Smith on the forensics of fire and explosions compelled me to gain deeper insights on the field and the scientific community around it. First and foremost, the paper was eye-revealing in regards to the importance of scientific evidence in the criminal justice system. To my knowledge, forensics is an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of law, chemistry, criminology, and other disciplines. Besides, it is not solely theoretical – it is practical to the point where certain findings may determine the outcomes of people’s lives, their freedoms, and future prospects for the years to come. In this light, forensics of fire and explosion is a subfield that keeps developing and transforming to serve the needs of the criminal justice system.

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Another idea that I came across while reading and doing some background research is the importance of scientific evidence in forensics for the reputation of the field. It seems that in recent years, forensics has generated much controversy and has even been considered pseudoscientific and misleading on several occasions. Laboratory experiments reconstructing investigation cases have shown that forensic methods do not guarantee absolute precision.

Unfortunately, it means that a faulty outcome of a biased experiment may make an innocent person spending their life in jail. Therefore, it is essential that the field make advances, especially when it comes to the most challenging cases such as arson, fire, and explosions.

As Professor Fred Smith rightfully notices in his paper, investigating arson cases is no easy feat. First, fire destroys physical proof so that reconstructing the crime scene is often nigh on impossible. The mixture of fire and chemical foam used by firefighters aggravates the complexity of locating evidence as the compound does not allow for easy preservation. Lastly, arson cases do not often have witnesses – setting a piece of property on fire is rarely done in public.

Arsonists commit their crimes on their own, and depending on the precision of their planning and previous experiences, it is possible for them to go completely unnoticed. Investigators typically approach an arson case from various angles. They look for unusual damage patterns and work closely with firefighters. The latter arrive early at the scene and, therefore, may witness more than investigators.

One of the issues whose existence I realized after doing research is the disengagement of the forensic community on the questions of fire and explosions. Apparently, the field and those people who are indispensably involved in handling fire cases, e.g. firefighters, policy-makers, and educators, do not always exchange their findings and opinions. For starters, it results in the lack of connections between the investigation and prosecution phases of a criminal case. When people working on a case do not communicate properly, it is hard to connect a result in one phase (e.g. forensic findings) and action in the other phase (e.g. the court’s ruling).

Another issue arising from the described disengagement is the lack of comprehensive training programs for forensic specialists and firefighters. What makes the situation even more complicated is how rapid technologies are transforming the forensics field. Unrelated to fire and explosions, but for example, 35 years ago, DNA was a novelty. By now, however, it has become a commonly used practice. I think that Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic science should be appreciated for its efforts to unite the forensic community. The school stays up to date with crucial findings, the subfield of fire and explosion included, and ensures knowledge dissipation.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, July 31). Forensics of Fire and Explosions Critique.

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