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Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide

Ignitable Liquid Residue & Fire Debris


Detailed Procedure:

Linoleum is a generally a nonporous material and therefore will likely not absorb potential ignitable liquids. However, ignitable liquids can seep into seams between linoleum sheets or into joints where the linoleum meets the baseboard, cabinets, or other items. Therefore, these may be the most productive areas for sampling. In some cases, ignitable liquids may soften or dissolve a linoleum or vinyl flooring, or the coating on the flooring may be worn. In these cases, it may be productive to sample in that damaged or worn area.

To collect linoleum for ignitable liquid residue testing:

  1. Select a productive sampling area. Productive sampling areas contain some or all of the following characteristics:

    • Within an area of ignitable liquid indicators, such as a suspected pour pattern

    • In an area where ignitable liquid may collect, such as the lowest point on the floor, at a joint between sheets of linoleum, or where linoleum meets the wall or cabinets

    • The edge of a burn pattern or suspected pour pattern at junctures with furniture and walls

    • Pre-fire tears, rips, or cracks (typically indicated by interior sooty edges)

  2. Photograph the linoleum in place, including any stains, patterns, or other features noted.

  3. Wear new, unused, clean latex or nitrile gloves.

  4. Use a new or properly cleaned utility knife to cut a strip of linoleum that will fit inside the evidence can.

  5. Chimney roll the linoleum. Allow any excess water to drain. Stand the chimney-rolled linoleum on its end in a new, unused metal paint can. Fill the container no more than 2/3 full, leaving 1/3 headspace for vapors.

  6. You may also elect to sample the wood subfloor under the carpet. Using an appropriate tool, such as a wood chisel or saw, sample the subfloor under the linoleum (typically wood or concrete).

  7. If it will fit in the same can, add the subfloor substrate to the sample. If the piece is large, break into smaller pieces to fit into the container. If it will not fit in the can to leave 1/3 headspace, place the substrate in a second can and note on the evidence label that it was the substrate and what linoleum sample it corresponds to.

  8. Clean the lip of the can using a new or properly cleaned screwdriver or other suitable tool.

  9. Tightly close the can by gently tapping it with a rubber mallet to seal it. Do not dent the can because it may compromise the seal.

  10. Seal the can with evidence tape. Initial and date the tape. If possible, collect a comparison sample of linoleum and subfloor that is not suspected to contain ignitable liquid residue and not in the room of origin. Comparison samples are especially important when sampling linoleum because many linoleum flooring and/or the adhesive used to apply it can contain petrochemicals and can share similarities with many ignitable liquids. This sample should be collected in a separate container and using a new, unused pair of gloves and a clean or new tool.

  11. Label each container with identifying information, including case number, date, exhibit number, a brief description including recovery location, and your name.

  12. Store the item(s) in a secure location, such as a locked evidence van or your vehicle, until you are able to transport it to the laboratory.

Laboratory examination of linoleum:

Linoleum can be tested for ignitable liquids using gas chromatography mass spectrometry. This test can determine the classification of the ignitable liquid. Linoleum may also be examined for class characteristics or possibly traced to the manufacturer.


interFIRE. "Evidence Sampling for Ignitable Liquids Testing." Online Training Module, 2013:

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