Rankin presents research at international meeting

Dr. J. Graham Rankin, professor in Forensic Science Graduate Program, presented research results at the International Symposium of Fire Investigation Science and Technology (ISFI 2012) meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park, Oct. 15-17.

ISFI 2012 was the fifth presentation of this biennial professional symposium emphasizing the application of modern fire science and technology to fire investigations and analyses.

ISFI 2012 accepted more than 60 papers covering the entire spectrum of fire investigation science and technology. Fire investigation scientists and experts from 10 countries across four continents presented papers. The international gathering was organized by the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).

Rankin’s presentation is based on research by Dana Greely, MSFS (May 2012) who is currently working as a trace evidence chemist for the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office in Cincinnati, Ohio.  At the Tri-State  Fire Academy in Huntington, Greely and Bob Sullivan, Certified Fire Investigator for the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office, performed a number of control burns of gasoline and kerosene on carpet resulting in “pour patterns” sometimes found at fire scenes where such liquids were used as accelerants.  Her subsequent measurement of the residual liquids in the burned carpet has overturned the “traditional wisdom” about where to best sample pour patterns at a fire scene.

Greely previously presented her research at a meeting of the West Virginia Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators in the fall of 2011 and at the American Academy of Forensic Science in Atlanta last February.  “Her presentation in the fall 2011 led to an opportunity to do a full scale burn of a house in Parkersburg used for fire training,” Rankin said.  Results of that full scale burn confirmed the smaller scale tests at the West Virginia Fire Academy in Huntington and are included in the presentation at the ISFI 2012 meeting.

This research was supported by the cooperative agreement “Interpretation of Ignitable Liquid Residues in Fire Debris Analysis: Effect of Competitive Adsorption, Development of an Expert System and Assessment of the False Positive/Incorrect Assignment Rate,” project number 2010-DN-BX-K272 through the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The project is slated to continue through 2013.  Five Marshall graduate students currently are participating in the project along with Dr. Nicholas Petraco, an associate professor at the City University of New York.  Rankin is the principal investigator of the project.