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Rapid GC–MS as a Screening Tool for Forensic Fire Debris Analysis



Briana Capistran, Edward Sisco


Techniques developed for the screening of forensic samples can be useful for increasing sample throughput and decreasing backlog in forensic laboratories. One such technique, rapid gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), allows for fast sample screening (≈1 min) and has gained interest in recent years for forensic applications. This work focuses on the development of a method for ignitable liquid analysis using rapid GC-MS. A sampling protocol and temperature program were developed for the analysis of these volatile samples. Using the optimized method for analysis, the limits of detection for compounds commonly found in ignitable liquids ranged from 0.012 mg/mL to 0.018 mg/mL. Once the method was developed, neat ignitable liquids (i.e., gasoline and diesel fuel) were analyzed, and major components in each liquid were identified. The identification of major compounds in gasoline and diesel fuel in the presence of substrate interferences was then assessed through the analysis of simulated fire debris samples. Three different substrates were spiked with each ignitable liquid, burned, and analyzed. Major compounds in both liquids were identified using the total ion chromatograms, relevant extracted ion profiles, and deconvolution methods.
Forensic Chemistry


GC-MS, Fire debris analysis, Ignitable liquid residue, Screening methods


Capistran, B. and Sisco, E. (2022), Rapid GC–MS as a Screening Tool for Forensic Fire Debris Analysis, Forensic Chemistry, [online],, (Accessed February 25, 2024)
Created July 6, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022