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Fiery Cover-Up

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Here's how to dispose most incriminating evidence: by burning.
"Fire! To destroy all you've done!"
Fire, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

The act of blowing up or burning down the evidence implicating you in some crime. Very popular among evil corporations and governments who go as far as torching entire city parts to cover up something particularly nasty. Often takes place when the heroes are in the middle of discovering said evidence.

Attempting this is very much Truth in Television. Part of firefighter training is to be on the lookout for signs that fires might have been started to conceal another crime, such as noting if a window was broken before they put an axe through it to get into the building. Also known to happen in cases of Insurance Fraud. As forensic science has improved, it's often the case that arson will create more evidence than it destroys, though it's a very mixed bag whether the writer of a story will actually know this. This trope is often averted in real life; house fires generally can't reach the temperatures that would be necessary to completely consume a human body, and any competent forensic pathologist would be able to tell whether a person died before or during a fire just by checking whether there's any soot or burns in the airway and lungs.

Compare Destroy the Evidence which deals with characters covering up the crimes of others. Also compare Gas Leak Cover-Up, Kill It with Fire, and Revealing Cover-Up. Furnace Body Disposal can also easily come into play.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the second Black Jack OAV an international drug cartel burns down the peyote grow op they've been running in the mountains when the authorities catch wind of it. Their plans are undone, however, when they make the mistake of attempting to dispose of Black Jack himself in the fire, alive, of course.
  • In Death Note, Light has an elaborate setup to hide the Death Note. It's in a drawer, under a false bottom, with a circuit underneath the false bottom, around the Death Note. There is a rubber pad that keeps the circuit from being completed when the false bottom is down; the only way to take it out is to slide the ink barrel of a pen through a small hole on the underside of the drawer to block the circuit and push the false bottom up. If the circuit is completed, the Death Note will be ignited. This way, even if they suspect that he's Kira, even if they know about the Death Note, even if they realize that there's a false bottom on the drawer, the Death Note will be reduced to ash and they will have no proof. Later, he uses fiery deaths to dispose of Kiyomi Takada and Mello.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Dr. Marcoh directs the Elric brothers to Central City's library for a coded message he left there about what the homunculi are doing. Unfortunately, the homunculi hear of this, and when the brothers arrive at Central City, they find that the entire library has been burned down.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: After Yoshikage Kira impersonates Kosaku Kawajiri, he uses Killer Queen to detonate the body before the heroes could get close enough to identify it.
    • Golden Wind: Upon receiving a photograph containing information on the location of a disc to be passed to Bucciarati, Pericolo burns the photograph while leaving a message behind before shooting himself to prevent any enemy from questioning him.
    • JoJolion: While Josuke and Rai are battling Poor Tom, Jobin deliberately sets fire to the Higashikata backyard to prevent anyone seeing him swapping the Locacaca branch with a fake one.
    • The JoJoLands: After taking down some dirty cops, Jodio and Dragona burn the police vehicle to destroy the camera footage of their attack.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, William's modus operandi is often Kill It with Fire, so there's quite a few instances of burning things to cover up a crime:
    • The very first murder from the Moriarty brothers ended with burning down the entire manor, ensuring that their victims stayed alive just long enough to show smoke inhalation in the lungs.
    • In The Hunting of Baskervilles, William again chooses fire to destroy the bodies of his victims and their gruesome trophies.
    • In The Man with the Golden Army, after evacuating everyone from a mansion set to explode, Moran and Moneypenny then throw the bodies of their victims into the fire to cover up the crime.
    • In The Two Criminals, Sherlock burns down Milverton's manor not exactly to cover his murder of Milverton, but to destroy any evidence Milverton had on his blackmail victims. Of course, it worked out that it also covered up his own crime.
    • The Moriartys burn down their London manor for a second time in The Final Problem.
  • In Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, it is kind of an Establishing Character Moment for Balsa, when she accepts the task of hiding the prince so his father will never find him. She grabs as much of the offered jewels as she can easily carry, takes the prince, and orders the servants to burn down the wing of the palace to both as a distraction while they get away and to cover up what happened to the prince.
  • In Mother Keeper in the final part of Hunter Graham sets Silas' house on fire after murdering everyone in there.
  • Aoyama Pharmaceutical in Mnemosyne demolishes Sayara Yamanobe's secret lab soon after it is compromised in the first episode.
  • One Piece: Franky secretly had in his possession the original blueprints for an ancient Lost Superweapon known as the Pluton. The Pluton was hidden somewhere in the world and still exists, and the blueprints were retained in case someone found them and another Pluton needed to be built to counter it. Unfortunately, the corrupt World Government discovers the existence of the blueprints, and Franky is forced to burn them to keep it out of their hands. He acknowledges that this means that if someone rediscovers the Pluton, they won't be to counter it with another Pluton, but it was better than the World Government being able to create an entire armada of Plutons.
  • Rurouni Kenshin - this was attempted on Shishio Makoto. It didn't kill him, but it did leave him covered head-to-toe with third-degree burns.
  • Triage X - The method the protagonists use to hide the evidence of their vigilante actions. Frequently involves destroying the entire (abandoned) city block.

    Comic Books 
  • Lex Luthor does this to one of his own buildings at the beginning of Black Orchid, incidentally burning up the title character.
  • In Identity Crisis (2004), when Jean Loring accidentally kills Sue Dibny, she tries to cover it up by burning her body with a flame thrower.
  • One of Herr Starr's first missions for the Holy Grail in Preacher is to kill a journalist who's likely to spill the beans on them, though they managed to get him locked up in an asylum. When they question his methods (he set the whole thing on fire), Starr justifies himself by saying that if only one guy had been killed, it would have looked suspicious.
  • Sensation Comics: In issue 75 Wonder Woman learns of an unscrupulous crime boss known only as "Shark" forcing boys to steal for him and he tries to burn down his hideout with his unwilling accomplices tied up inside to hide any evidence that he was tied to the thefts.

    Fan Works 
  • Absolute Trust: The Owl Spirit reveals a scroll that narrowly survived Zhao torching the Fire Nation section of Wan Shi Tong's Library, which may well have been one of the reasons for them attacking the Library. Specifically, the scroll was penned by Avatar Szeto and Fire Lord Yosor half a millennia ago, establishing the rules of Agni Kai... and revealing that Fire Lord Ozai's challenge against Zuko was illegal, since it hadn't been officiated or refereed by the Fire Sages. On top of that, by burning Zuko after he'd surrender, Ozai had actually forfeited his position as the Fire Lord to Zuko. Not the sort of information Ozai would want getting out.
  • In Aeon Entelechy Evangelion the OIS forensic team tries to find any evidence on the group who compromised the airport security on the day Shinji arrived. Problem: They are doing in the aftermath of battle, where one side, the NEG Army, was desperate enough to lob relatively small tactical nuclear warheads at the other side, the Third Harbinger Asherah, who casually violates spacetime and reality while pwning the humans with ease. Suffice to say, there is not much to dig.
  • Common Sense: James uses his blue roses in this fashion: the petals light up with blue fire, which he can use to ignite anything that's flammable.
  • In Destiny is a Hazy Thing, Naruto and Hinata use an explosion to cover up their discovery of a "dangerous knowledge" stash and the deaths of the two ROOT agents who saw them.
  • The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas opens with the murder of TheGodfather, and how a fire was set by the killer to cover their tracks. Detectives Alexa Bliss and Bayley Martinez lament that, between the fire and the water from putting it out, there is very little evidence left for them to work with.
  • In New World Without End Light and Mikami torch the Yellowbox warehouse.
  • The Rock Farmer's Daughters: Cortland initially plans to burn the letters he stole from Bluejinx, but escalates to the point of setting the boarding house and the farm connected to it on fire. While Cheese Sandwich, Pinkamena and Igneous are inside.
  • Withering Hope: The murderer in the first case uses the incinerator to dispose of most of the evidence of their crime.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the end of 68 Kill, Chip covers up the bloodbath at Monica's trailer by pouring high proof booze on the floor and torching the place.
  • At the end of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the government nukes the entire town to cover it up.
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the CIA attempt this, firing drones at the compound of an African warlord they've secretly been providing with weapons and ammo, despite at least one civilian - Lois Lane - inside the compound. This is prevented by Clark, who flies in and blows up the drones before they can reach their target. Also Subverted slightly earlier, as after Knyazev and Lex's other goons shoot the rebels they are working with, they burn the bodies with flamethrowers, making it appear to be this trope - but it's really a Frame-Up to make the world think that Superman, who's arriving to save Lois from the rebel warlord, killed the rebels with his heat vision.
  • Big Fat Liar: Movie producer Marty Wolf (accidentally) steals teen Jason's writing assignment, then makes a blockbuster movie out of it. Jason asks Marty to call his dad to tell him what happened, but instead he burns it in front of him while making a big show of "trying" to put it out.
  • In Circus of Fear, the killer sets fire to the barn where he murdered Manfred to conceal the crime, and possibly destroy the stolen cash. Alternatively, they might have been hoping that the fire would spook Gregor into revealing the money's location.
  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow: When Otis triggers a fatal heart attack in Mrs Ritter by threatening her, he covers up his deed by turning on the gas and causing a fiery explosion.
  • In Face/Off, when Castor Troy wakes up from his coma and finds that his face has been removed and grafted onto Sean Archer, he forces Dr. Walsh to put Archer's face on him. Afterwards, Castor goes to Erewhon Prison where Archer-as-Castor is trying to learn the location of "Sinclaire" from Pollux Troy. Castor brags to Archer about how he burned down the clinic where the face swap has performed, killing anyone who was aware it happened. Since no one knows the swap, Archer gets Castor's 100-year prison sentence, and Castor gets Archer's position as an FBI Agent as well as his wife.
  • Foolproof: When Leo gets back to his place, he sees a fire started by the gang to destroy evidence against them.
  • In Glass Onion, Miles burns the cocktail napkin with Andi's plan on it, thus destroying the only physical evidence that he stole the idea for Alpha from Andi. While this foils Helen's initial plan of revenge, Blanc helps her realize there's another way she can ruin Miles' reputation.
  • How To Blow Up A Pipeline: Xochitl and Theo burn the house down where the group had stayed, covering up the evidence anyone except them was there.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, Captain Ramios is trying to cover up disobeying his orders. The evidence is the orders in question.
  • James Bond
    • The Living Daylights. Necros kidnaps a Soviet defector and burns the transcript of his interrogation in a nearby fireplace. However it's later revealed that the information the defector provided is fake, and this is only to make MI6 believe otherwise. Given that senior MI6 officials have already heard the information, they act on it.
    • The World Is Not Enough: Elektra King steals a nuclear warhead. She then plans to detonate a bomb so the authorities will think she has used all of the plutonium and stop looking for it. However, the explosion will cover-up the fact that she actually removed half the plutonium to use in her real scheme.
  • In Julia X, Jessica covers up the bloodbath that has occurred in her family home by burning it to the ground.
  • In Jurassic World Dominion, once it's clear Biosyn's involvement with the locust plague will leak, Dodson orders the incineration of the specimens still in the lab. Once the still burning bugs get out, they cause a forest fire that forces the dinosaurs inside the facility.
  • Max Manus. La Résistance are out to destroy the government records to forestall a move to conscript Norwegians for the Russian front. One archive is blown up, but the other set of archives are in a block of flats with civilians living there, so Max insists they burn the documents in the fireplace even though it takes all night. Inevitably the police show up to investigate all the smoke coming from the chimney and things rapidly go From Bad to Worse.
  • In The Mummy (1999), Terence Bay lights the map to Hamunaptra on fire when Eve and Jonathan showed him the map that proves the city's existence. Later in the film, it is revealed that he is an ally to the Medjai, who wants to keep the city a secret so that no one could resurrect Imhotep, making his burning of the map deliberate.
  • In Outbreak, the military threatens to bomb the town in order to contain the virus.
  • In The Phenix City Story, the mobsters set fire to the evidence that has been collected against them by Al Patterson and his associates. The narrator (Al's son John) thus snarks:
    "That night in Phenix City, they tried to Destroy the Evidence by 'a fire of unknown origin', to quote the police report."
  • Red Hill: Old Bill and his posse torch Jimmy's home in an attempt to cover up their crimes. They are very surprised when he emerged from the flames still alive.
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse. The Umbrella Corporation uses a 5 kiloton tactical nuclear warhead on Raccoon City to destroy the zombie infestation, as well as all evidence that they were responsible for it. They plan to claim that the explosion was a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, ignoring the fact that nuclear plants can't explode like a nuclear bomb.
  • In The Return of the Living Dead, the last survivors call the military for help and are assured they will take necessary steps... not to save them though. Apparently standard operating procedure for this kind of event is to napalm the affected area. This fails brilliantly as the fire just kicks more of the zombifying chemical into the air, to then fall as acid rain on an even larger area.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009):
    • Sherlock and Watson are looking through the dwarf'snote  laboratory when two of Blackwood's henchmen saunter in carrying arson equipment. Holmes is smart enough to know what they've come to do. Then they call for Dredger and things turn into a fight.
    • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, where Moriarty has an assassination carried out, in which not only is the room where the crime took place destroyed, but everyone who was in the room at the time is killed in the blast. But Holmes manages to figure out that it was a cover to hide the shooting of the owner of a weapons factory (the owner himself was shot in the head by Col. Moran from the roof of a nearby building with a sniper rifle, rather unnecessarily, seconds before the explosion happened). The explosion covered up the shooting and hid the true motive for the attack.
  • In Son of a Gun, Lynch and JR pile everything connected to the robbery (including Sterlo's body) into the getaway vehicle before torching it and shoving into a lake in one of the old mine pits
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a benevolent version of this where Sarah Connor and friends are on a mission to destroy all evidence of the SkyNet artificial intelligence technology to prevent the billions from dying when the system instigates nuclear strikes worldwide.
  • They Live by Night: After the bank robbery, the gangsters change the escape car and before getting into the second one, the relay car; they burn the one they used to pull the heist.
  • In Tiger House, Callum is planning to burn Mark's room (and, by extension, the rest of the house) to destroy all traces of Shane's blood (and DNA) and any other evidence they leave behind.
  • Trench 11: The Germans attempted to destroy the titular facility but the main charge failed to detonate. Berton discovers the bombs are intact but deliberately not detonated. Implied to be sabotaged by Reiner.
  • The Turning Point (1952): Neil Eichelberger burns down a building containing one of his rackets, including a building containing multiple families, in order to cover up his illegal activities as a loan shark and racketeer.
  • Warcraft (2016): Medivh burns down all of Khadgar's research on the Portal and frames it as "it's dangerous for you to investigate this!", while in fact he tries to cover up his involvement in bringing the orcs to Azeroth. He misses the page Khadgar had hidden in his cloak, though, implicating himself.

  • A favourite method of Professional Killer Wesley in the Burke novels by Andrew Vachss. By bludgeoning his target to death, then burning down the entire building where they lived, the police would be faced with a Needle in a Stack of Needles mystery, not a single homicide.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld: In Jingo, one of these is used on the Klatchian embassy. The crime? Treason.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the novelization of "Rose", Bernie Wilson, chief caretaker at Henrik's, plots to set the department store on fire to cover up the fact that, thanks to his regular theft of the lottery money pooled by the employees, he didn't buy a ticket that week with one employee's regular numbers, which by bad luck were the winning numbers that Wednesday. Wilson is killed by the Autons before he can start his fire, but the coverup technically still happens because the Doctor blows up the plastic-infested building later that night.
  • Dortmunder: In Bad News, after a supposed missing heir to the casino he manages (and has been embezzling from) is granted access to the book by a judge, Frank tries to burn the books and claim someone stole them. He burns down the whole casino by mistake.
  • Averted in Flyaway by Desmond Bagley. Our hero is giving The Summation to the Big Bad, who at one point throws a piece of evidence in the fire. The hero points out that it's a photocopy. "Plenty more where that came from."
  • The Golden Rendezvous by Alistair MacLean. The villains steal the latest mini-nuke from the United States and plan to use it to destroy all evidence and witnesses after their robbery of a gold shipment. The protagonist points out that using explosives isn't guaranteed to work, as people have survived the explosion of naval magazines packed with TNT during wartime. Likewise shooting everyone would take hours and waste valuable time. Of course, as the mini-nuke is the latest technology, why didn't the criminals just sell it?
  • In the Stephen King novel The Green Mile, Eduard Delacroix killed a young girl, then tried to burn her body to cover it up. The fire spreads to the rest of that apartment, killing six more. Thus, he ends up on Death Row.
  • In the novel Jericho Falls, the U.S. government arranges a fully loaded airborne tanker to crash on a small town, destroying it in the massive fireball to cover up their killing of everyone there.
  • The criminal of the second book in the Knight and Rogue Series is actually trying to destroy evidence that he extorted money. To make it look less suspect, he burns several other buildings before going for the one he wants.
  • The Night's Dawn Trilogy. Quinn Dexter and his devotees do something nasty to a family, then shoot each though the eye with a beam weapon and burn down the house. When the other colonists discover what a bastard Quinn is, they wonder what was done to the family that they had to burn the bodies afterwards?
  • In Other Paths To Glory by Anthony Price, the bad guys set fire to a building to disguise a theft, but don't carry off the cover-up well enough to prevent the firefighters recognising it for what it is.
  • Parker: George Uhl does this in The Sour Lemon Score after he murders his two co-conspirators: burning down the farmhouse where the murders took place. He knocks the teeth out of the corpses before setting the fire to make identification of the bodies almost impossible.
  • In Return Match by Philip K. Dick, an alien spacecraft is being used as an Illegal Gambling Den. If raided by the authorities, it takes off to destroy the evidence...including their own customers.
  • In the Alastair Reynolds novel The Prefect, the villain arranges it so that the exhaust from a starship drive would destroy a habitat where something nefarious was occurring. This is an unusual specimen, in that the goal was not to hide evidence; (almost) no one would have complained about the actual target being destroyed if it weren't for the fact that 900+ people were killed as a side effect.
  • In the Prudence Penderhaus novel 19 Marigold Lane, Prudence and her friends break into their suspicious new neighbor's house. In the basement, they find boxes of files containing detailed information on Cassius - both the results of recent surveillance, and information dating back to his infancy. The protagonists leave so they don't get caught when the owner comes home. A few minutes later, they learn that when they broke in, they triggered a booby trap that is now burning the house down, destroying all the information in the basement.
  • In the Diogenes Club story "Richard Riddle, Boy Detective in 'The Case of the French Spy'", Orris Priory is set on fire to hide what took place there — by the Kid Detective protagonists, who figure that a mysterious fire is going to cause less trouble in the long run than an intact building where all the inhabitants have had their heads eaten by the vengeful Fish Person the Priory's owner was keeping captive in the basement.
  • Sam the Cat: Detective: Prior to The Great Catsby, Harold Rigsby hired an arsonist to burn down his office and destroy the records proving he was a tax cheat.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch: In "The Addleton Tragedy", the killer, after realising that Dr. Addleton is dead, sets fire to the body in an attempt to conceal the crime and inadvertently makes the whole situation seem much more mysterious than it actually is.
  • In the Dean Koontz novel Sole Survivor, an NTSB engineer named Minh Tran analyzes the flight data recorder from a crashed plane, but someone doesn't want the public to know what's on it. He is killed and the recorder is destroyed in what is described as "an impossibly intense fire."
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: In Death Cloud, Clem burns down the warehouse (at the Baron's orders) to ensure they have not accidentally left any evidence behind. Unfortunately, Sherlock is hiding in the warehouse at the time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first season of 24, Keith Palmer's therapist dies in a fire as part of a government conspiracy. (It was probably arson. But you can't prove that.)
  • Played for laughs in Arrested Development. When Michael discovers that a storage unit his father tried to keep him from finding out about has burned down, it doesn't take him long to connect it to the recently released arsonist who's been set up with a job at the banana stand (which he readily admits to).
  • Blake's 7: In "Killer", Avon plans to steal a component of a Federation code machine. He has to do this without the Federation knowing as they'd just change their codes, so he programs the component to show a fault so it will be thrown in the garbage where they can easily steal it. To give him time to do this an electrical fire is started so the men will go to their fire-drill stations, leaving the computer room unattended. Then the base falls into chaos through a genuine emergency, and Avon realises they can just steal it directly and start a fire in the room that will seem like random damage or vandalism.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • In the season 4 finale, after killing Gus Fring, Walt goes to the superlab where Jesse is forced to cook under supervision and kills his two guards, before they both proceed to destroy the place by flooding it with volatile chemicals and setting up a Christmas light timer connected to a frayed wire, whose spark causes a conflagration that torches down the whole basement (when the DEA visits it in the next episode, they can only find two charred bodies left unidentifiable by the heat and the destroyed remains of a surveillance camera on the wall).
    • In El Camino, after confronting and killing Neil and Casey over the $1,800 he needed, Jesse covers his tracks by using some propane tanks rigged with a blowtorch to blow up their workshop.
  • Cold Squad: In "Taggert Family", the killer sets fire to Taggert family home to destroy evidence and make it impossible to determine time of death.
  • In the Community episode "Digital Estate Planning", this happens in a video game of all places. The study group plays an adventure game together and Annie and Shirley visit a blacksmith's shop to buy weapons. Unfortunately, the weapons are outrageously expensive and they can't afford any, so Annie tries to get something she thinks would be free. It's not, and she accidentally kills the blacksmith while trying to put it back. She and Shirley then decide to loot the shop and burn it down. (Yes, they made it possible to do this in the game.)
  • CSI: In "Grissom's Divine Comedy," a gang torches their leader's apartment to destroy any evidence before the CSIs can search it.
  • CSI: NY:
    • The fire that destroyed Stella's apartment was thought to be this trope when a corpse was discovered in a neighboring apartment. Subverted when the "murder victim" was found to have died of an injured spleen from an unrelated accident two days earlier, making her presence at the time of the fire a coincidence.
    • Played straight in a much later episode where a perp tricked the mother of a missing college student into setting a fire to destroy evidence in return for information on the whereabouts of her child.
  • In Desperate Housewives, after murdering his psychiatrist in the storeroom of the Scavo family's pizzeria, Dave Williams puts it on fire for cover-up.
  • Lila on Dexter gets particularly excited about setting things on fire. In the season two finale, she discovers that a) Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher and b) all the evidence to incriminate him is in the cabin. To help him, she blows it to Kingdom Come. It actually does help him, in far more ways than she initially realizes.
  • Doctor Who: In "Deep Breath", what appears to be a rash of cases of spontaneous combustion is actually this. The killer has been harvesting organs from the victims, and burning the bodies to conceal that anything was taken.
    • Also takes place in the TV Movie, where the hospital administrator burns the X-Rays taken of the Doctor in order to obscure the evidence of the surgery in which the Doctor was killed.
  • On Elementary a man is murdered and later that day his house is set on fire. Sherlock initially suspects that the fire was set to hide the theft of a valuable collection of silver items made by Paul Revere. However, he then discovers that the theft was committed by a firefighter after the fire has been put out. The arsonist was looking to destroy documents stored in the murder victim's safe but was unable to break into the safe so he set a fire that was hot enough to incinerate the paper inside the safe. The documents contained a land grant from the American Revolution that would have proven that the arsonist was not the rightful owner of a very valuable piece of land.
  • Father Brown: This is what the killer appears to have been attempting in "The Brewer's Daughter". In reality, it was the reverse. The killer set the fire in such a way as to make it obvious it was arson as part of an elaborate frame-up.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Impudents", Erskine and Jim are called in to investigate when a murder is committed on an ocean liner. Before they reach the ship, someone sets fire to the cabin where the murder occurred to destroy the evidence.
  • Ghostwriter: The last episode of the pilot arc "Who Burned Mr. Brinker's Store?" reveals that the aforementioned fire was a case of this. It turned out that Mr. Brinker was involved in a videotape piracy ring and he'd been given a notice from the FBI to testify against the leader. Instead, he decided to cause a fire to destroy the evidence, throw off the time to give himself an alibi, and accuse Jamal of it to deflect suspicion.
  • The Head. The crew of an Antarctic research station start a fire to cover up the accidental death of a woman during an Attempted Rape. However the fire causes A Crack in the Ice to open up and swallow the station before it can be destroyed. This causes problems when global warming causes the station to become uncovered again, meaning the evidence is still there for anyone who comes looking. The corpse of the victim is indeed recovered and an autopsy reveals she had no smoke in her lungs, meaning she was already dead when the fire started.
  • The Heavy Water War. After his engineer flees to London, the director of the heavy water plant is worried he'll suffer Guilt by Association, and goes through his files to remove any correspondence between them. He finds a picture of him shaking hands with the engineer. Just then commandoes blow up the electrolysis chambers in the factory basement, and so while inspecting the smouldering wreckage he puts the photo in the fire.
  • iZombie:
    • In the Season 3 premiere, Fillmore-Graves blow up Max Rager's corporate headquarters in order to hide evidence that the massacre that happened there in the Season 2 finale was zombie-related.
    • When Blaine is finally facing criminal charges midway through Season 5, he manages to get word to Don E to burn down his mansion, destroying any incriminating evidence before the cops can search it.
  • After murdering Detective Clemons in Jessica Jones (2015), Will Simpson attempts to cover it up by burning Clemons' body and the entire crime scene. He winds up giving himself away a few episodes later, however, because he knows things that he shouldn't and in the process of burning the scene he gets some burn injuries which he didn't even notice thanks to the combination Super Serum/Psycho Serum he was taking.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "The Seer of the Sands", a pair of fake gypsies burn down their caravan and leave a skeleton dug up from the local graveyard inside it to cover their escape and allow them to slip out of the country with no one looking for them.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Kemen tries to sabotage the military expedition to Middle-earth by leaking the gasoline from the casks. Isildur, hiding on one of the ships, catches Kemen and tries to stop him. They fight and accidentally set on fire the ship, the explosion destroying a second one in the process. Isildur saves his life and lies to his father that Kemen was on a fishing boat and was simply caught up in the explosion and he had to save his life. Isildur theorizes that it was all an accident provoked by one of the casks. Elendil takes everything at the face value.
  • Monk: In "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing", Eddie Murdoch is hired by his boss Peter Breen to kill Breen's girlfriend Stefanie Preston. Murdoch strangles her in her house, positions her body on her living room couch, then lights the house on fire to make it look like she fell asleep on the couch while watching TV and drinking, then he walks away. Except he leaves behind the keys he used to get into the house on the coffee table, but by the time he realizes it, a fire engine has just sped past him on its way to the fire. So he goes to a firehouse a few blocks away to steal a firefighter's coat and helmet. Coincidentally, Monk and a firefighter named Rusty are checking Monk's smoke detectors. When Rusty walks over to confront Murdoch, Murdoch bludgeons him with the bottom of a shovel. Monk rushes over, and there is a struggle, which ends when Murdoch throws a bucket of cleaning acid in Monk's face, blinding him. Murdoch then grabs the gear he needs, returns to Stefanie's house, and sneaks past the real firefighters and emergency workers unnoticed as he retrieves the keys.
    • The funny thing is that said episode was based on a Tie-In Novel, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse. The only differences are that the victim was smothered instead of strangled, the incriminating item was a monogrammed overcoat instead of a set of keys, and the collateral victim was the firehouse's Dalmatian, not Monk and an innocent firefighter.
  • Motive: Done by the killer in "Abandoned". After the Victim of the Week suffers Death by Falling Over in the kitchen of a diner, the killer turns on all the gas and then uses a Reusable Lighter Toss to ignite it. What she does not realize is that her victim is still alive as the fireball goes off.
  • The Ronan Point disaster in London was parodied and satirised in the Architect sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus. An architect demonstrates a manifestly unsafe apartment block that catches fire, collapses, and then explodes - and that's only the model. Instead of being thrown out of the room, the board committee ascertain the Architect is a fellow Freemason, and whole-heartedly endorse his design as "being good enough for the tenants".
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Night of the Coyote", the killer burns down a museum to cover their theft of a specific item.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "In the Altogether", the killer sets off a bomb to make it look like MacTavish died in an explosion caused by a gas leak.
  • An episode of The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo revolved around that episode's culprit burning down houses to hide the fact that they were illegally harboring endangered animals inside the houses.
  • This has been done a few times in NCIS. Once, to cover up the death of Jenny Shepard, who died in California, by making it look like an unfortunate accident at home so that the news media doesn't learn about the true cause of death. Another time, it is revealed that members of Moussad who are compromised will call in special teams that cover up evidence of the operative in question by staging a fire. In a third instance, a hostage is placed on a pressure plate that threatens to blow up everyone and everything in the room, including computer banks that contain considerable evidence if the hostage is removed (the hostage is safely removed in a manner referencing one of the Indiana Jones flicks and returned to safety, but the aforementioned evidence went up in smoke).
  • New Tricks: In "In Vino Veritas", UCOS investigate the murder of a pub landlord who died in a fire at his pub. The landlord's dire financial situation led the police at the time to mark the fire down as suspected arson and his death as suicide. However, the landlord was murdered and the fire was started by his brother (who was not the murderer) to cover up evidence of other crimes that would have come time light if there was an investigation.
  • In Nikita, Division uses this method to remove themselves from the scene of a crashed drug smuggling plane.
    • Division also uses a large fire to cover up their involvement in the murder of the Udinov family.
    • And Nikita herself uses this method in the finale, to destroy her safehouse.
  • Person of Interest:
    • Attempted when a top-secret mop-up mission in China is to be obliterated by a bomb strike, conveniently also wiping out the agents tasked for the cleanup. The agents involved are not happy. (although the installation is totally destroyed, so that part of it succeeded)
    • Also attempted in 2010, when shady government agents arrange a suicide bomb at a ferry terminal. They succeed in killing Nathan Ingram, who was planning to meet a reporter and publicly reveal the existence of the Machine. They do not succeed in killing the actual creator of the Machine, though to be fair, he went out of his way to make sure they didn't know he existed... and the blast left him with permanent injuries.
    • Team Machine discover a coded message from privacy terrorist group Vigilance written on the wall of an apparently empty lockup in infrared paint. There's also a CCTV camera, a remotely activated trigger for the roller door and the sprinkler system has been converted to spray everything and everyone with gasoline. An electric lighter starts sparking away, but fortunately Reese turns up to rescue them before the whole place blows up.
  • The Professionals. In "Not A Very Civil Civil Servant", the goons of a Corrupt Corporate Executive find papers that could implicate their boss, but Bodie turns up and a fight ensures. A goon grabs the papers and runs back to his boss, who throws them in a backyard incinerator when Cowley tries to confiscate them. Cowley then reveals the real papers are already in the hands of the Fraud Squad, and CI5 only needed evidence that he was connected to them.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In The Master Blackmailer, the lover of a married woman receives a letter from her breaking off their illicit relationship. He angrily tosses it in the fireplace and storms off. Unfortunately, his servant is in the pay of the eponymous blackmailer and quickly retrieves the letter before it burns. When the blackmailer is later murdered, Holmes and Watson are present and make a point of emptying his safe of blackmail material and throwing the contents in the fireplace, despite the servants trying to smash down the door.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Armageddon Game", Bashir and O'Brien are sent to an alien planet to help the government dispose of a dangerous biological weapon. However, the government wishes to ensure that no one with knowledge of the weapon could ever recreate it, so they try to kill the two once their business is done. To cover up for the (failed) murder, the aliens send the Federation a security tape showing the two men accidentally activating some defense system and vaporizing themselves out of existence.
    • Inverted in the episode "Improbable Cause", in which Cardassian spy Garak blows up his own shop in order to get the station's security chief Odo to start an investigation.
    • The episode "In the Pale Moonlight" involves a plot orchestrated by Starfleet Captain Sisko, with the help of Cardassian spy Garak, wherein the Romulans will be provided with a forged recording of the Dominion leadership planning an invasion of their empire. They hope that such a recording would finally convince the Romulans to join the war. Things take a turn for the worse when the Romulan envoy who arrives to collect the recording realizes almost immediately that it is a fake. On his way back to Romulan territory, however, his ship mysteriously blows up. It is then discovered that the plan being executed was not the one that Starfleet thought they had been executing; instead, Garak had orchestrated an intricate plan of his own to murder the envoy in such a way that the Romulans would believe the recording was in fact real.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Surprise Party", this turns out to be part of the Dark Secret behind the burned house on a plot of land that is featured prominently in said episode, as the original owner of the house started the fire while a house party was taking place, ultimately claiming 15 party-goers' lives, in order to cover up for his murder of one party guest he got in an altercation with and the subsequent murder of one other party guest because that other guest wouldn't start screaming after witnessing the initial murder and the original owner wanted to Leave No Witnesses.
  • In the Korean Series Twinkle Twinkle Granny's secret stash of loan shark contracts, money, and object d'art are destroyed by fire at her hidden warehouse.
  • Vera: In "The Sea Glass", one suspect torches the boat that was used to dispose of the Body of the Week. They do not do a very job and Vera and her crew find traces of blood on the prow.
  • The X-Files:
    • In the pilot, Mulder's motel room is burned to the ground to destroy evidence of alien abductions in Oregon.
    • In season 2 finale "Anasazi", the Cigarette Smoking Man orders soldiers to burn down a boxcar with hybrid alien bodies. Mulder was inside of said boxcar as well.
    • At the end of season 5, his and Scully's office is burned in a similar fashion.
    • In The X-Files: Fight the Future (immediately following the above), an office building is bombed to cover up the bodies of some people who died because of The Conspiracy. Notable in that while the FBI were tipped off to the bomb, they were given the wrong building. Mulder for whatever reason decides to search the real target. He and Scully manage to evacuate the entire building before the bomb blows, and the "victims" tip them off that something was wrong. They had multiple confirmations that all floors were evacuated.
  • In the second episode of Yellowstone's first season, "Kill The Messenger", Rip Wheeler (John Dutton's enforcer) covers up a medical autopsy that more-or-less proves Dutton's son, Kayce, shot and executed Robert Long (the brother of Monica Long, Kayce's wife). Rip does this by knocking out a medical examiner that's implied to be a clear Death Seeker (the latter doesn't resist in any way, and it's implied that he smokes cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid to mask his depression) and using a microwave fire to burn both the ME and all the evidence of the autopsy.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure: Paco burns the petition. After the mayor is arrested, Paco attempts to burn down the hotel's construction site for the insurance money, endangering the island.
  • In Alice: Madness Returns, it's revealed that the fire that killed Alice's family was started by Alice's psychiatrist, Dr. Bumby, in order to conceal his rape and murder of Alice's older sister Lizzy.
  • In Broken Helix, the marines' true objective is to kill every living thing in Area 51, be they human or alien, including Burton, who knows too much.
  • In the famous scene of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Shepherd orders his men to do this with the body of Ghost and Roach (the Task Force 141 Player Character), who is still somewhat conscious enough to see Shepherd throw his burning cigar into the gasoline-soaked ditch. The last thing Roach sees is Shepard walking away while he burns to death.
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the killer behind the game's first murder attempts to destroy evidence in the trash incinerator despite the room it's in being barred off during the time period the murder took place. Fortunately for him, he's the Ultimate Baseball Star and could hurl the evidence across the room and right into the incinerator and hit the button to turn it on. Unfortunately for him, he didn't manage to burn the whole thing and left just enough for everyone to figure out what he was doing.
  • In one of the cases in The Darkside Detective, the protagonist investigates an antique shop whose owner has an illicit trade in magical artifacts. The shop owner reappears in the sequel, A Fumble in the Dark, operating out of a new location, and explains that fortunately for him his shop burned down in a mysterious fire before the police could collect any evidence of his wrongdoing.
  • Dead Rising: Near the end, The Government sending in Special Forces to take out everything in the city, including you. A similar operation in the past targeted the Big Bad's village.
  • F.E.A.R. 2: Armacham Corporation pulls off one of these to hide their culpability in Alma's release.
  • The US Government in Half-Life's eventual response to the Black Mesa Incident: send in a unit of Black Ops to Nuke 'em. This wasn't their first choice, but while the scientists (save one Dr. Freeman) were easy to silence, the aliens the accident conjured up, and later, the Marines originally sent in to contain the Alien Invasion and silence said scientists, weren't. Among the things the Marines did include blowing up aliens or surviving Black Mesa personnel with explosives or simply bombing them into submission.
    • In the demo version, called Half-Life: Uplink, the HECU Marines are also shown burning the corpses of several Vortigaunts they had killed.
  • Heavy Rain: Scott Shelby burns a barrel full of evidence implicating him as the Origami Killer.
  • In Max Payne, when the title character is investigating the Cold Steel mill, he hears that a facility called the "Deep Six" has been compromised, and a call for commencement of "Operation Dead Eyes."
    The walkie-talkie military lingo could mean only one thing... they were getting ready to destroy the evidence and vanish into the night.
    • When Max actually reaches the bunker and finds out exactly what Horne and her people have been mixed up in (as well as the truth about his family's murder), he eventually has to escape the facility before it blows sky high.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, the threatened nuclear strike against Shadow Moses Island is ostensibly a last-ditch contingency to stop the terrorists. Later revelations make it clear, however, that it would have been just as much this trope as well.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the prologue mission ends with the Big Bad, Colonel Volgin, stealing a Doomsday Device from a Soviet research base, then destroying the base with an American nuclear warhead. In an interesting take on the trope, this turns out to be less for covering up his involvement and more for framing the United States — by making it seem like the U.S. is supporting his military coup, the Soviet government becomes less likely to believe America when they offer to help.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Tatsuya Sudou's murders of the Mafia hitmen who were sent to kill him, the deaths of the staff members, and his Room Full of Crazy were all destroyed by burning down the Sanitarium where it all took place. Then The Conspiracy used a Gas Leak Cover-Up to cover the causes.
    • In Persona 4 Golden, the "Accomplice" ending where you decided to befriend Adachi and cover up his crimes has you burned the incriminating warning letter that he sent you when you were investigating the killer. When Adachi sees you do it, he just laughs at you for betraying your pals for his friendship and essentially blackmails you since you destroyed the evidence to his crimes.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, in case 2, the killer tries to burn their clothes they wore during the crime.
    • In the first case of Dual Destinies, the killer explicitly states that he loves explosions for how they destroy evidence. He murdered someone using a bomb as a blunt object and then detonated it. However, a later case reveals that the bomb was actually detonated by an international spy to destroy evidence with his DNA on it. It's still this trope either way.
    • There is a unique subversion in Case 5 of Spirit of Justice. It is revealed that you set the Founder's Orb on fire to activate it. The judge even finds the irony in this.
  • In Psychonauts, "The Milkman" whom Thornley Towers security guard Boyd Cooper keeps worrying about is actually an alternate persona planted in his mind by Coach Oleander, with orders to burn down the asylum once Oleander and Loboto are done with their evil scheme.
  • Played with. Robot City centers on the titular city being infected by a Computer Virus coded by the murdered Dr. David Poole, with your character, Derec, framed for the murder. When you clear your name and purge the virus, the city's creator Dr. Avery decides the city is too far gone to save, and tries to cover it up with its built-in Self-Destruct Mechanism. If you thwart Avery from doing so, he then leaves you to decide what to do with Robot City.
  • Philip Walters' scheme in Strike Commander hinges on this. First, he sells a load of fake stocks to the same petrochemical company that had previously fired him, for millions in cash up front. He then promises a large payout to a mercenary unit — specifically the unit that got him fired from his job, has a grudge against said company, and is in dire financial straits at the time — if they simply shoot down a single company plane under false pretenses. When the deed is done, Walters tries to escape the country with all of the money. When finally caught by the mercenaries, he reveals that the destroyed plane was carrying the fake stocks.
  • Uplink actually allows the player to do this by giving them the option to rig their computer with explosives. If the FBI is knocking on the Uplink Corporation's door and they're about to shut down your account and seize your computer, you can blow the whole thing up destroy all the incriminating evidence, and provided you squirreled away enough money you can just buy a new computer without losing your account and all of your progress.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in Girl Genius, when someone wants to try this but a cleverer conspirator points out just how suspicious that convenient fire would be. It can be found here and here.
    • Merlot tries this as well, to destroy information about Agatha. Since one of the things he had to burn to destroy this knowledge was the people who had read the files, it is not surprising he got sent to Castle Heterodyne anyway.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Abraham blows up the museum security cameras watching the statue he was encased in to coverup his exit in order to maintain the Masquerade.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy episode "Lois Comes Out of Her Shell", as part of a night on the town spurred by Lois having a Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis, she and Peter accidentally drive into and kill a homeless man. Peter, visibly upset, covers both their car and the man's corpse in gas and sets them on fire.
  • Rick and Morty: In "Meeseeks and Destroy", when the followers of King Jellybean discover photographs of his true nature, they choose to have them burned to uphold the pedestal.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Pranksta Rap", Bart fakes his kidnapping to cover up that he snuck out to a rap concert. When Lisa finds the shirt Bart got at the concert, she shows it to Homer.
    Homer: Lisa, I'm very glad you brought me this. I'll see that it gets to the proper authorities. (throws it in the fireplace)
    Lisa: Dad! Why did you do that?
    Homer: Hollywood producers have paid me a fortune, which I've already lost, for the rights to Bart's story. So I have to destroy anything that proves that story's not true. (takes off his shirt and throws it in the fireplace)
    Lisa: Why did you burn up your shirt?
    Homer: What shirt? I don't see any shirt. (takes off his pants and throws it in the fireplace) Burn the truth! Burn the truth!

    Real Life 
  • After the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there were several records of their hired cleaning crews burning dead birds and sea life at night so that people couldn't see the destruction.
  • Burning incriminating evidence isn't that useful in real life. While fire is hot and is supposed to dispose of things easily compared to more harder to obtain materials (like most strong or just outright deadly acids for example), it has to be at a very high temperature and has to consistently stay at that temperature or go above that temperature to really incinerate everything around it, of course without incinerating the criminal. That is if the fire could even get that hot.
    • The flashover point (which is when a fire superheats the air to the point everything around the fire ignites all at once) is an aversion to this. By this point, everything will be reduced to ashes and there won't really be anything to find after that. Should anyone be caught in a flashover point, there won't be anything left to recognize.
  • On August 27, 2011, 53 bodies believed to be Libyan civilians arrested by pro-Qaddafi loyalists for interrogation were found in the remains of a warehouse, which had been burnt by the pro-Qaddafi forces to keep them from rebel forces. There may have actually been 150 dead.
  • On April 10, 2001, Robert William Fisher staged a gas explosion after shooting his wife and slitting the throats of their children. He was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List in June 2002. Details of this were used in an episode of FBI that served as the backdoor pilot for FBI: Most Wanted.
  • In the Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murders of July 23, 2007, career criminals Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into the house of Dr. William Petit and his family. They tied up Dr. Petit in the basement after cracking him over the head with a bat, then took his two daughters and wife hostage. Petit's wife was forced to withdraw money from her bank by the two criminals. After that, the two crooks, Hayes and Komisarjevsky, proceeded to rape Petit's wife Jennifer and younger daughter Michaela, then strangled Jennifer, and proceeded to set the house on fire with gasoline they purchased that morning. Dr. Petit managed to get out alive. The two criminals then attempted to flee after setting the fire but were stopped and arrested about a block away.
  • Shortly after the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, embassy staff were filmed burning documents in an apparent attempt to cover the killing up. Intelligence experts who saw the footage were not so much bothered about the attempted cover up as much as the visible sloppiness of the Saudi intelligence through the whole debacle.