March 15, 2014: Burning Down the House: John Lentini talks to D.P. Lyle and Jan Burke about Fire Science

John Lentini

Fire both frightens and fascinates us.  Gaining the ability to use it in a controlled way changed the course of human existence, but its destructive powers when uncontrolled — or used criminally — came with the Promethean gift.

Myths put aside — and our guest works hard to put aside myths about fire — fire is created by chemical reactions.  In this episode of Crime and Science Radio, we talk to John Lentini, noted expert on the science of fire, and a man who has worked for many years to promote better, scientific approaches to the investigation of fires.

Lentini Book

The author of Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, John Lentini is one of the leading fire investigators in the United States.  He is the president and chief investigator of Scientific Fire Analysis, LLC.  He is certified by both the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). and is a certified Diplomate of the American Board of Criminalistics, with a specialty in Fire Debris Analysis. He was a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 2009 President’s Panel on Scientific Integrity.  He has authored over 3000 technical reports and testified in over 200 cases since 1975.  He has testified for both Plaintiffs and Defendants, and as a neutral court-hired expert. He has appeared on Frontline, 20/20, and other television programs.

He talks to us about scientific fire investigation, what can be learned from examining the scene of a fire, and why improved training and scientific approaches to fire investigation are so important.



A Basic Explanation of How Fire Works (from

“Arson Forensics Sets Old Fire Myths Ablaze” NPR interview with John Lentini

“Spark of Truth: Can Science Bring Justice to Arson Trials?” Discover Magazine

“Arson Myths Fuel Errors” Chicago Tribune

“Trial by Fire: Did Texas Execute An Innocent Man?” Story on Willingham case in The New Yorker

Trailer for Incendiary: The Willingham Case

Frontline’s Death by Fire program on the Willingham case

“Fire Expert: How I Nearly Sent an Innocent Man to the Electric Chair” 20/20 article

One thought on “March 15, 2014: Burning Down the House: John Lentini talks to D.P. Lyle and Jan Burke about Fire Science

  1. Dear Mr. Lentini: please let me know if you are interested in helping to prove my son innocent of burning down our home in 2008.Police and prosecuors said he piured gas on me and tried to light me on fire. The Michigan State Police crime labs in Grand Rapids and Lansing proved there was no gas on me. There was no insurance, no motive, and no evidence against my son. He did 30 months in prison for arson and assault. These ‘crimes’ never took place. It was an electrical fire and I have proof. Please let me know how much money you would need before looking into this solvable puzzle. Our lives will never be the same as before the fire, but I have to do what I can to help clear Timothy. He never hurt me, he never would try to hurt me. He will always be known as the kid who tried to burn his mom to death. It was an accidental fire. My number is 269 753-4927. My address is 37 Janoah Avenue Battle Creek, Michigan 40915-2510.

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