Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.
What they do
Fire investigators, another type of worker in this field, determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess outdoor fire hazards in public and residential areas.
Fire inspectors typically do the following:
- Search for fire hazards
- Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
- Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection equipment
- Inspect fuel storage tanks and air compressors
- Review emergency evacuation plans
- Conduct follow-up visits to make sure that infractions do not recur
- Review building plans with developers
- Conduct fire and safety education programs
- Maintain fire inspection files
- Administer burn permits and monitor controlled burns
Fire investigators typically do the following:
- Collect and analyze evidence from scenes of fires and explosions
- Interview witnesses
- Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
- Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or accelerants
- Analyze information with chemists, engineers, and attorneys
- Document evidence by taking photographs and creating diagrams
- Determine the origin and cause of a fire
- Keep detailed records and protect evidence for use in a court of law
- Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings
- Exercise police powers, such as the power of arrest, and carry a weapon
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess outdoor fire hazards in public and residential areas. They look for fire code infractions and for conditions that pose a wildfire risk. They also recommend ways to reduce fire hazards. During patrols, they enforce fire regulations and report fire conditions to their central command center.
Fire inspectors work both in offices and in the field. In the field, inspectors examine buildings such as apartment complexes and offices. They also may visit and inspect other structures, such as arenas and industrial plants. Fire investigators visit the scene of a fire. They may be exposed to poor ventilation, smoke, fumes, and other hazardous agents.
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists spend much of their time outdoors, assessing the risks of fires in places such as forests, fields, and other natural or outdoor environments.
How to become a Fire Inspector
Fire inspectors and investigators, as well as forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists, typically have previous work experience as a firefighter. These workers need at least a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job-training in inspection and investigation.
Fire inspectors and investigators usually must pass a background check, which may include a drug test. Most employers also require inspectors and investigators to have a valid driver’s license, and investigators usually need to be U.S. citizens because of their police powers.
Because fire inspectors and investigators typically have previous work experience as a firefighter, many have completed a postsecondary educational program for emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Some employers prefer candidates with a 2- or 4-year degree in fire science, engineering, or chemistry. For those candidates interested in becoming forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists, a high school diploma or equivalent typically is required.
Training requirements vary by state, but programs usually include instruction in a classroom setting in addition to on-the-job training.
Classroom training often takes place at a fire or police academy over the course of several months. A variety of topics are covered, including guidelines for conducting an inspection or investigation, legal codes, courtroom procedures, protocols for handling hazardous and explosive materials, and the proper use of equipment.
In most agencies, after inspectors and investigators have finished their classroom training, they also receive on-the-job training, during which they work with a more experienced officer.
Employers, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and organizations, such as the National Fire Academy and the International Association of Arson Investigators, offer training programs in fire investigation.
The median annual wage for fire inspectors and investigators was $61,660 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,400.
The median annual wage for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists was $45,270 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,710.
Overall employment of fire inspectors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialization.
Similar Job Titles
Deputy Fire Marshal, Fire Code Inspector, Fire Inspector, Fire Marshal, Fire Official, Fire Prevention Inspector, Fire Prevention Specialist, Fire Protection Specialist, Fire Safety Inspector, Inspector
Fire Investigator, Criminal Investigator and Special Agent, Agricultural Inspector, Construction and Building Inspector
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- IAFF FireFighters
- International Association of Arson Investigators
- International Association of Fire Chiefs
- International Code Council
- National Association of Fire Investigators
- National Association of State Fire Marshals
- National Fire Protection Association
- National Fire Sprinkler Association
- Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Magazines and Publications
Smokey Bear may be the most recognized fire prevention figure in the country, but there are a variety of workers involved in preventing and investigating fires in the forest and elsewhere. Fire inspectors search buildings for fire hazards and ensure that government fire codes are met. They inspect buildings— from apartment and office complexes to stadiums and schools. They also test fire alarms and extinguishers, review evacuation plans, and conduct fire safety education programs. Fire investigators attempt to reconstruct how fires occur… they collect evidence and interview witnesses to determine the origin and cause of building fires. They may be exposed to poor ventilation, smoke, fumes, and other hazardous agents. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists look out for conditions that pose a wildfire risk, recommend ways to reduce fire hazards, and conduct patrols to enforce regulations and report on conditions. They spend much of their time outdoors in forests and fields. Most fire inspectors, investigators, and forest fire specialists have work experience as firefighters along with specialized classroom and on-the-job training. While some employers prefer candidates with a degree in fire science, engineering, or chemistry for fire inspector and investigator positions, forest fire specialists typically need a high school education. Additional requirements vary by state.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org