Investigation of Spontaneous Ignition Fires 

Spontaneous ignition has become more known and understood in the fire investigation community over the past 25 years, but is still missed by many seasoned experts. Fire, by definition, is a rapid oxidation process resulting in the evolution of light and heat in varying intensities, NFPA 921; 3.3.66. Oxidation is defined as a chemical reaction that is most commonly caused by atoms gaining oxygen. Therefore, fire investigators must have some knowledge of elementary chemistry to successfully complete origin & cause investigations. Spontaneous heating is the result of the slow oxidation of a combustible material, NFPA 921; 3.3.179. So, what exactly is oxidation?