When a suspicious fire occurs, an investigator from the Michigan State Police or local agency investigates the scene. If they suspect an accelerant may have been used, the investigator can collect areas where they believe the accelerant was used. These samples are placed in nylon bags or sterile metal cans, sealed air tight, and submitted to the Trace Evidence Unit for examination.
The samples are then documented and prepared for extraction. The samples are heated, causing any accelerant to go from the liquid phase to the gaseous phase and be adsorbed onto a strip of activated charcoal. The charcoal will absorb any accelerant molecules that may be present. The charcoal is then used for analysis. A solvent is used to extract the accelerant from the charcoal. The resulting solution is injected into a GC/MS to identify the type of accelerant used.