Fire Scene to Courtroom


NFPA 921 Chapter 16, relates that the goal in documenting any fire and explosion scene is to accurately record the investigation through media that will allow the investigators to recall and communicate their findings.  Documentation in the Courtroom: NFPA That a benefit to the use of video recording is that the investigator can better recall the fire scene, specifically fire patterns, artifact evidence, their location and other important data and elements of the fire scene.


Fire scene documentation requires highly detailed accounts of evidence at the scene; however, it can be a challenge for investigators and technicians to document everything given the short window of collection time and the sensitivity of the evidence. The Matterport 3D laser-scanning camera can be utilized to document fire investigation scenes in a more comprehensive manner compared to traditional tools.

Traditional Evidence Gathering vs. Laser Scanning

At a typical fire scene, investigators must decide which parts of the scene are relevant to their case; what to photograph, what to measure, and what to collect. This typically involves using traditional tools such as tape measures, measuring wheels, still and video cameras, and total stations to capture location images of walls, doors, furniture, and many different kinds of objects. However, given the magnitude of evidence at a scene, and in many scenarios, the cramped space in which a team has to work, this can be an extremely difficult task.

Additionally, determining which items are significant in a limited time span can be a challenge – using traditional methods, it can take days to document everything. Often, the relevancy of various artifacts and images are not known until later on in the origin and cause investigation, at which point, the scene may have already been compromised and or spoliation has occurred, and measurements are impossible to collect.

Replacing traditional fire scene documentation methods, laser scanners offer an innovative approach to processing and documenting a fire investigation scene. Laser scanners can measure and photograph virtually everything at a fire scene. The data collected by laser scanning solutions are much more accurate and comprehensive compared to data collected with tape measures, sketches, or through single point collection using a total station. For example, in a typical 360° scan of an indoor scene, investigators can collect 10 million points in about 5 minutes – capturing details at the scene down to the millimeter.

The speed and compact nature of the laser scanner allows investigators to quickly document entire environments without any subjectivity – everything can be documented in its original position.

A permanent record of the scene is captured, and accurate measurements can be calculated using various software programs designed specifically for crime scene analysis long after the crime scene is gone.

Benefits of Laser Scanning in Forensics

Many forensic teams have found that the implementation of a laser scanner into their workflow has generated benefits far beyond processing at the scene of a fire. For example, when laser scan data is brought into a software program to register the data points, a photorealistic 3D model can be generated. These models are then used in courtroom presentations to interactively and accurately bring the jury to the fire scene.

Creating a full-color walk-through enables attorneys to immerse the jury in the scene and illustrate the paths of people involved in the crime, providing a more compelling argument over simple photographs.

Additionally, when a case is brought to trial, it can be months, or even years after the fire had occurred. By generating models of the scene using scan data, the scene can be revisited and reexamined at a later date for additional information.

The versatility of the device allows for high-resolution documentation of both indoor and outdoor scenes, helping fire investigators to create a more efficient workflow in a shorter timeframe. Setting up in minutes, the scanner accurately captures the detailed dimensions of rooms and environments.


Providing a comprehensive snapshot of a fire scene, 3D laser scanning improves workflow efficiencies, from the collection of evidence at a scene to post-processing and courtroom presentations for forensic investigations. Used for fire or explosion origin and cause investigation, fire fatalities or casualties, or for subrogation purposes, laser scanning provides a highly accurate, systematic approach to evidence collection in accordance with the guidelines of NFPA 921 and exceeds the requirements outlined in NFPA 1033.

Create immersive walkthroughs of existing fire scene conditions that can be annotated, edited, and shared across claims associates, SIU, Subrogation units and Attorney’s to find answers to your origin and cause investigation.


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