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Owning certain liquids could lead to criminal charges over a fire

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense

House fires happen all the time, and often they are simply accidents. No one is legally responsible for a fire in most cases if they did not start or spread the fire on purpose. However, when a fire causes property damages, leads to injuries and results in a big insurance claim, there could be a major investigation to find the cause of the fire.

When police officers and fire marshals investigate the scene of a significant fire that caused property damage or injury to people, one of the first things they look for is evidence that an accelerant played a role.

Accelerants are typically liquids that people pour over items to make a fire spread more quickly or prompt it to move in a certain direction. Unfortunately, this law enforcement practice might mean that items you had in your house will make police officers suspect you of arson after a fire.

What might police officers consider a chemical accelerant?

An accelerant could affect the growth of the fire just by being present. You may not have intentionally poured it over the fire, but it may be hard for the professionals investigating to know that. Chemical tests and physical evidence of how the fire moved can make professionals suspect the use of accelerants.

The most obvious kind of chemical accelerant is fuel. People may use gasoline, butane or propane to start or spread fire on a residential property. However, plenty of other common household items could also serve as accelerants. Paint thinners, cooking oils and nail polish remover are very flammable items. So too are alcohols, especially liquors with high percentages of alcohol.

Items that you have in your house for cosmetic purposes, to use for your career, for cooking or for home repairs could affect the spread of a fire and lead prosecutors to suspect that you committed a crime. Identifying why prosecutors want to charge you with arson can be an important step toward defending yourself against those charges.