We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is an Accelerant?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jan 23, 2024
Our promise to you
AllTheScience is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At AllTheScience, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An accelerant is any substance which speeds a process, but most people use the term specifically to refer to substances which contribute to the spread of fires. Fire accelerants include things like hydrocarbons, paper, plastics, and other materials which can cause a fire to spread more quickly or burn more fiercely than it would otherwise. In arson investigation, the detection of accelerants is especially important, as the presence of such a substance will need to be proved in order to classify the fire as an arson.

When an accelerant is present at a fire site, it contributes significantly to the speed at which the fire moves and how hot the fire burns. Without an accelerant, most fires burn at relatively cool temperatures; while these temperatures are high enough to cause severe damage and kill any living organisms caught in the fire, they are typically not hot enough to do things like melt hard metals. In the presence of an accelerant, however, a fire has what is known as a higher heat release rate, which means that the fire burns very hot, causing substantially more damage to the site.

An accelerant can also cause an explosion, typically through a buildup of vapors which ignites at the heat of the fire reaches it. The explosive nature of accelerants has sometimes literally blown up in the faces of arsonists, as a fire may ignite explosively before someone is fully prepared for it; the bodies of arsonists are sometimes found at the fires they set, as a result. The explosions characteristic of some accelerant are sometimes a key clue for fire inspectors, who may be able to tell that a fire is an arson while it is still burning, thanks to the explosions, high heat, and rapid spread.

Arson investigators can use a number of tools to identify accelerants at a site. Accelerants leave distinct chemical signatures which can be detected by the nose of an arson dog, for example, and sometimes obvious physical clues can show that an accelerant is present. Once the use of an accelerant is proved, a fire can be classified as an arson, opening an investigation to determine who set the fire, and why.

In addition to being deliberately introduced to a site with the intention of causing a fire, an accelerant can also occur naturally, or be brought in by accident. Historically, some plastics acted as accelerants, by offgassing vapors which could ignite dangerously, and some very severe fires were caused by the presence of such vapors in homes, hotels, and businesses. Some glues, solvents, and paints can also act as accelerants, which is why it is important to ensure that such things dry thoroughly when they are applied.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllTheScience researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

AllTheScience, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.