University of Alberta Researchers Speed Up Arson Investigations

After a fire forensic scientist rush to the scene to begin to piece together clues which will lead to finding the cause of the blaze. The work is laborious and filled with time consuming monotony. However, researchers at the University of Alberta have found a way to cut the time from days to seconds with a new discovery.

The discovery is actually a computer software program that does all the time consuming calculations that have been done by humans in the past. By replacing the humans with a computer the results come back quickly and accurately allowing the police to know if the fire was intentionally set. This time saving program will allow the investigation to move along faster and hopefully capture the culprit much sooner.

The software program was announced by University of Alberta chemistry professor James Harynuk through a recently published article of Forensic Science International. The discovery, which was begun in 2008, was a joint effort by Harynuk, his team of graduate and undergraduate researchers, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Forensic Laboratory Services.

Working with a mathematical model the team was successfully able to classify debris from the fire in a more accurate manner than the research based on simulated matter. Mark Sandercock, manager of trace evidence program support for the RCMP’s National Forensic Laboratory Services says by discovering the cause quickly the investigators will have better information to ask the right questions for the case.

Harynuk explained that the debris in an arson case can be a mixture of samples which are uncontrolled. In many instances the contents of the building are unknown and can contain a number of fire accelerants. The program is designed to sift through all the accelerants and narrow them down to the one that caused the fire.–+ScienceDaily%29

Elli Alder

Elli Alder is a seasoned journalist with 12 years experience as a reporter and investigative journalist. While studying journalism at Ryerson, Elli channeled her inter journalist and worked as a beat reporter for the Ryerson Rams.  As a contributor to County Telegram, Elli covers municipal and provincial politics.

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