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Investigating arson claims. Investigators should be careful that confirmation bias does not derail the investigation. (Photo: Azer Merz/Shutterstock)

Determining the origin and cause of a fire requires adherence to the scientific process as well as the painstaking collection and analysis of evidence. Details that point to the possibility of arson introduce a criminal and emotional element to the investigation that may seem daunting, but keeping a cool head and following the scientific method allows you to draw an unbiased, evidence-based conclusion.

Remember that confirmation bias can derail an investigation. Just because you may suspect that the fire was deliberately or maliciously set, it’s important to engage a certified, experienced fire investigator to complete an inspection and determine the cause of the fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 921 provides guidance for the methodology used to conduct an unbiased investigation. This document requires the seven steps of the scientific method to be used to determine the origin and cause of all fires.

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