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Fire Scene Evidence Collection Guide


Pliable Surfaces


Detailed Procedure:

To collect a pliable item that may bear fingerprints:

  1. Photograph the item in place.

  2. Wear new, unused, clean latex or nitrile gloves. Do not touch the item with bare hands.

  3. Make sure the item is dry before packaging. If it is wet, air dry it in still, warm air prior to packaging by placing it on a clean sheet of paper at room temperature, away from direct heat, sunlight, and drafts. Do not package wet items; they may deteriorate.

  4. Select an appropriate container, such as an envelope or plastic or paper bag. Label the container with identifying information, including case number, date, exhibit number, a brief description, and your name. Do not use Styrofoam packing materials.

  5. Carefully pick up the item, preferably by the corner or areas where fingerprints are less likely to be deposited. Secure the item to a stiff backing, such as cardboard, using an approved method (glued, tacked, tied) appropriate to the item. If you are unsure what to do, contact your forensic laboratory.

  6. Insert the backed item in the container, and secure it so it does not shift around or rub against the container during transport. Seal the container with evidence tape, and initial and date the tape.

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

If an item will also be examined for ignitable liquid residue, please consult the laboratory for the proper collection procedure. Items should not be air-dried or packaged in an air-permeable container if they will be examined for ignitable liquid residue.

Laboratory testing of fingerprints on pliable surfaces:

Special techniques are used to image or process these prints to ready them for analysis. Prints can then be run through databases for matches and/or compared to known prints.


Crime Scene and Evidence Collection Handbook. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005.

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