State Fire Marshal’s Forensic Lab Receives Grant to Enhance Investigative Capabilities

Columbus, OH – The Ohio Department of Commerce Division of State Fire Marshal’s (SFM’s) Forensic Laboratory has been awarded a $239,250 grant to purchase cutting-edge technology to enhance its investigation capabilities. The Forensic Lab investigates fires and explosions that occur across the state.

This latest funding fulfills a three-year $771,000 grant, and is part of $3.4 million awarded to 11 crime labs across the state by the Ohio Crime Lab Efficiency Program. The program was created in 2022 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to help crime labs throughout the state increase efficiency and decrease evidence processing time.

“The State Fire Marshal conducts specialized investigations related to fires and explosions that occur across the state,” said Governor DeWine. “This investment in new equipment helps scientists and forensic experts perform complex analysis of evidence in a timely manner.”

“This funding will help us improve how we approach and conduct forensic investigations,” said Chad Wissinger, SFM Forensic Laboratory Bureau Chief. “Because of the advanced tools we’ll be able to acquire as a result of this funding, our team will be better equipped to conduct thorough and expedient investigations.”

The funding will allow SFM to address several immediate needs within the laboratory, including:

  • Mobile Device Charging, Storage and Security Cabinet: This equipment will allow investigators to safely and securely store multiple mobile devices, including cell phones and tablets, and keep them charged with a constant supply of power. By keeping devices powered on and charged as investigators conduct pre-analysis procedures, it can help prevent those devices from initializing a lockout mode, which can add significant time to an investigation. As a result, investigators will have more time to access the device via cracked passwords, extract their contents, and analyze potential evidence.  
  • Vehicle Chip-Off Forensics Kit: This will allow investigators to conduct vehicle infotainment module analysis in-house, which had previously been outsourced. As a result, this will help to expedite the investigative process involving those items.
  • Digital Evidence Storage Expansion: To accommodate an increasingly growing volume of digital evidence, the lab will double its storage capacity, ensuring vital data and potential digital evidence is adequately protected.
  • 3D Crime Scene Scanners: These advanced laser scanning stations will allow SFM investigators to document fire and explosion scenes, and collect information that can be used to generate detailed digital recreations that may be critical to investigations.
  • Latent Print Scanner: This will enhance the lab’s ability to process biometric evidence more efficiently.

In addition, the funds will allow SFM to make critical upgrades to the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that will help to streamline case file processing and reduce turnaround time for investigations.

“These enhancements not only represent a step forward in our technological capabilities, but they also reinforce our commitment to justice and public safety,” Wissinger said. “We’re now better positioned to support our investigators in the field, increase caseload efficiency, and ultimately, serve the citizens of Ohio with greater speed and accuracy.”

For more information about the State Fire Marshal’s Forensic Laboratory, visit com.ohio.gov/lab.

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