Two cars burn in mock crime fire

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Forensic science students analyze mock vehicle fire crime scene.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, two cars were lit on fire in a controlled burn by the Fire Recruit Candidate Academy at UVU in a criminal recreation of an arson crime. Students in the Advanced Crime Scene Techniques course were instructed to arrive on the scene the following morning, Wednesday, Feb. 13, and were tasked to analyze the crime.

The Advanced Crime Scene Techniques course teaches analysis and critical thinking for higher-tier crimes such as: fire and arson, clandestine graves, shooting reconstruction and scattered remains.

Amie Houghton, Assistant Professor of Forensic Science and instructor of the class, tasked students to conduct photographic documentation and hand-drawn sketches of the vehicles’ damage to analyze the burn patterns and identify the root cause of the fire.

According to Houghton, the purpose of the class is to provide more in depth analysis of scenes and forensic evidence.

“I created this class to give them a lot more in-depth look at documenting crime scenes. Fire scenes are very overwhelming because you look at it and you think, ‘how am I going to find evidence because everything is all burned?’,” Houghton said.

Dressed in white jumpsuits and plastic gloves, students conducted analysis on the exterior of the car before evaluating the inside of the vehicles. Navigating broken glass, leaking fluids and melted plastic, the students followed smoke marks and blackened char patterns to the darkest, smokiest part of the car — the location where the fire started.

Gordon Porter, a senior in Forensic Science, helped identify one of the possible causes of ignition as a road flare, which was located in the front of one of the vehicles.

“It’s not uncommon for cars to have a lot of issues, but we were able to locate a road flare in the front of the seat that gives us a pretty good idea,” said Porter.

The two vehicles, a Ford Taurus and a Jeep Cherokee, were burned outside and behind the Emergency Services Building by Provo Municipal Airport and were relocated inside due to inclement weather Wednesday morning for inspection.

Photos by Drew Ipson.

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