Using PIDs in Arson Investigation

By 23rd December 2019Arson investigation

Gasoline, kerosene, paint solvents and other flammable hydrocarbons are often used as accelerants in starting intentional fires. During an arson investigation, standard immediate response procedures will include the questioning of witnesses and firefighters about details, like the color and patterns of flames and smoke.

Using PIDs in Arson Investigation - ION ScienceHowever, determining the presence and location of accelerants and other fuel residues can help reveal the source and greatly aid the remediation process. Because of their ability to sense low levels of accelerants, photoionization detectors (PIDs) are valuable tools in arson investigations. PIDs provide a numerical output that can be used to make an immediate initial assessment of the likely cause of a fire.

Although dogs can be trained to detect residual accelerants at parts per billion (ppb) levels, they can be expensive to train and maintain. In addition, dogs may become distracted by other investigation activities, they can suffer from olfactory fatigue and become accustomed to smells, and they often are bonded to a particular handler, ultimately limiting their capabilities with multiple investigators.

In the hands of a skilled arson investigator, PIDs can determine evidence of hydrocarbons in the most unique locations, including between flooring joints or cracks, under baseboards or floorboards, under rugs or upholstery, and within concrete floors. If elevated levels of hydrocarbons are detected, the source can be traced to the point of maximum reading.

Using PIDs in Arson Investigation - ION ScienceION Science is the largest manufacturer of photoionization detection sensors with technology trusted by major gas detection manufacturers around the globe. Our range of PIDs offer flexible detection ranges, as well as incorporate patented Fence Electrode Technology that is proven to resist humidity and contamination within the most challenging environments.

Available around the clock and in any location, portable VOC detectors are able to identify and measure traces of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hydrocarbons even after a fire is extinguished.

To learn more about PIDs and VOC detectors for arson investigation from ION Science, contact us today at (877) 864-7710 or

Download a free arson investigation guide here.