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Collapsed Springs in Arson Investigations: A Critical Metallurgical Evaluation
Monson K L, Tobin W A
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Observation of "collapsed" coiled (steel) furniture springs has been utilized for several decades or more by arson investigators as an indicator of whether an accelerant or smoldering source (such as a cigarette) caused a fire. This paper cites the contradictory literature, synopsizes metallurgical phenomena operative when coiled steel springs are subjected to fires, and presents empirical data from U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBl) Laboratory testing. It is concluded that observation of the "collapsed" state of coiled furniture/bedding springs is not a reliable indicator of whether a fire was inihated by a smoldering cigarette or accelerated by the presence of a hydrocarbon.