Failure analysis is the application of laboratory testing, calculations, and computer modeling to determine how or why a failure occurred. In forensic fire analysis, “failure” might mean ignition, explosion, loss of structural stability, or more conventional failures such as failure of occupant notification devices (smoke detectors, smoke alarms), fire suppression systems, or smoke management systems. Of particular interest for fires may be whether a particular material or product (e.g., laptop computers, batteries, heaters, electronic devices, electrical wiring, etc.
) could cause ignition under certain circumstances. Equally as important is whether the failure mode observed in the laboratory is consistent with the forensic evidence. For instances where a known failure occurred, laboratory testing can be used to assess whether certain conditions could have led to this failure.