3 minute read

Fire Inspector/Fire Investigator Job Description, Career as a Fire Inspector/Fire Investigator, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training:— High school diploma, specialized training

Salary: Median— $54,840 annually

Employment Outlook:—Good

Fire inspectors follow fire code guidelines to examine buildings and other structures and identify hazardous conditions. They locate accumulations of inflammable or combustible material, and wiring problems that could lead to fires. They suggest remedial measures that owners may adopt to make buildings more fire resistant. In case the building or structure is used to store or process inflammable materials, they test fire detection and fighting systems to ensure that the systems meet government standards. They also inspect fire exit plans and conduct fire alarm drills to appraise evacuation procedures. In some cases they may be asked to act as fire investigators.

Fire investigators are responsible for detecting the cause and origin of a fire, and ascertaining what human actions caused it. In arson cases, they are required to present their findings in court for conviction purposes. Fire investigators study sites of fires, assemble evidence, and identify the individual(s) who may be responsible for a fire. Most fire investigators work in collaboration with law enforcement agencies.

Education and Training Requirements

After completing high school, aspiring fire inspectors are required to undertake the training offered by fire fighting departments of the state. Applicants must have normal eyesight, hearing, and be physically capable of performing their duties. State departments give certification after conducting tests. Employers may prefer candidates who hold an associate’s degree in fire protection, building construction, or engineering. Candidates can also improve their prospects by attending training sessions conducted by the U.S. National Fire Academy. These sessions offer instruction on topics like public fire safety, hazardous materials control, and anti-arson techniques.

Fire investigators require both justice training and knowledge of fire science. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms offers 2-year training fire investigation programs. Selected candidates can opt for advanced courses in fire sprinkler systems, fire growth, and computer modeling.

Getting the Job

Applicants may seek employment from the federal or state departments that appoint fire inspectors. Private sector jobs are advertised in newspapers and the Internet. Candidates must be familiar with the materials and methods used to construct buildings and other structures. They must also be familiar with government regulations regarding fire safety.

Fire investigators are employed by police and fire departments, municipalities, and insurance companies. Often, fire investigators start out as fire fighters or law enforcement personnel. As employees or volunteers, they acquire knowledge about criminal law and fire behavior. Fire investigators may also attend the relevant training programs arranged by local police and fire departments, the FBI, the ATF, and the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI).

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Promotions in the field of fire fighting are based on job performance, experience, and results of examinations conducted by the departments.

As more people are moving to urban settings, fire fighting agencies are finding it necessary to employ full-time staff. This is expected to result in increased employment opportunities for professionals in this field.

Working Conditions

Fire inspectors and investigators have to work both indoors and outdoors, in all kinds of weather conditions. They are exposed to fumes and may have to cope with excessive noise inside factories. Usually, fire inspectors and investigators work 40-hour weeks, but may often be required to work at night while inspecting sites that are closed during the day. Some fire fighters work as fire investigators during their free time. The nature of the job involves quite a bit of traveling since fire inspectors and investigators have to frequently visit different sites.

Fire investigators have to work with law enforcement personnel while gathering evidence. While documenting and presenting evidence for legal purposes, they have to work in offices and courts.

Where to Go for More Information

United States Fire Administration
16825 South Seton Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727

International Association of Arson Investigators
2151 Priest Bridge Drive, Suite 25
Crofton, MD 21114

National Association of Fire Investigators
857 Tallevast Road
Sarasota, FL 34243.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Office of Public and Governmental Affairs
99 New York Ave. NE Mail Stop 5S144
Washington, DC 20226

National Fire Protection Association
1 Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02169-7471

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

The median annual salary of fire inspectors and investigators in the United States is $51,128. However, salaries depend on the individual’s experience and place of employment, and can be in the range of $46,369 to $60,549 per year. It has been reported that after about 10 years of experience, fire inspectors and investigators can earn more than $68,000 annually.

Fire inspectors and investigators enjoy healthcare benefits, paid leaves and vacations, and life insurance coverage. Those who work in government departments are guaranteed pension after 25 years of service.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service