Fire devastates communities and families, and it makes identification of victims challenging. In the aftermath of the wildfire that swept through Lahaina, Hawaii, officials are collecting DNA samples from relatives of missing persons in the hope that this can aid in identifying those who died in the fire.
But how well does DNA hold up under such extreme conditions, and what is the best way to recover DNA from fire victims?
I am an anthropological geneticist who studies degraded DNA in archaeological and forensic contexts. My research group applies ancient DNA and forensic analysis methods to optimize DNA recovery from burned bones. Retrieving DNA from severely burned remains in order to identify victims is a particular challenge.