Metro crime scene investigators hone skills in arson simulation held in Arvada

ARVADA, Colo. - Finding clues in a crime scene is hard enough, without the crime scene being charred by fire.

Crime scene investigators around the metro area received firsthand investigation experience on Wednesday.

The Arvada Fire Department burned two cars and a makeshift home to simulate a fiery crime scene.

Arson investigators were able to train on what to look for and how to determine cause and origin of a fire.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation K-9, Riley, was able to showcase the power of his nose, pinpointing the locations of the accelerants.

Crime scene investigators looked for clues inside the charred rubble, and then tried to pull fingerprints off burned evidence.

"In this type of scene, it's very difficult because everything's black," said Arvada Police crime scene Det. Matt Archuleta. "Really, all we're trying to do is tell the story; whether it be accidental or intentional, we're just trying to tell the story and gather the evidence."

Before the vehicles were set on fire, police staged some blood splatters to see how it reacted to the fire and water suppression from firefighters.

"It's going to get moved or it's going to get destroyed and that's just the cost of doing business, you got to get the fire out first," said Archuleta. "At some point, even DNA doesn't survive."

Inside the burn house, Arvada Fire inspector Randall Weigum walked through the home teaching a rookie fire investigator how to pinpoint the start of the fire.

"When we come into a structure, we work from the least damaged area to the most damaged area," said Weigum.

Just like grass in a wildfire, Weigum looked at household objects to see which side burned and which side was less charred.

"Which way the fire came from is so we can go back and take it to what we call, 'The area of origin,' so this would be my area of origin. From there, we got to take it to what's called, 'The point of origin,'" said Weigum.

"When we get to the point of origin, we have to look at what type of ignition sources are in that point of origin," said Weigum.

That's where Riley, the CBI K-9 comes in. He's available to investigate for any law enforcement around the state.

"The dog doesn't just get to the door and say, 'I smell it in there' and sit down at the door and go, 'Good luck to you,'" said Riley's handler, CBI agent Jerry Means. "His command to go to work is 'seek' and I'll tell him, 'seek.'"

Inside the burn home, Riley sniffed around and would stop and sit at areas he smelled an ignition point. Near the door, he stopped and pointed five times with his nose at a gas container.

"It's just as important for the dog to find nothing as it is to find something, that's a piece of your puzzle," said Means.

While showing the CSI class what Riley can do, Means joked that just like anyone else, Riley can get sidetracked.

"Will he get distracted? Yes, because he's a male," said Means.

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