A fire investigator analyzes the evidence in the aftermath of a fire and attempts to determine the cause of the fire. Most have a background in firefighting and have specialized training to become an investigator.
Watch a video to learn what a fire investigator does.
How to Become a Fire Investigator
Most fire investigators started their career out as a firefighter (read how to become a firefighter) and then continued their training to become a fire inspector. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most employers prefer candidates with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, O*NET OnLine states that of the fire investigators surveyed, almost 50% report having no degree but some college. An additional 20% stated they had earned a post-secondary education. The certifications include the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) Certification from the National Association of Fire Investigators.
Job Description of a Fire Investigator
Fire investigators collect evidence and take photos after a fire in an attempt to solve how the fire started. Like a police detective, they send evidence collected at a scene to labs and interview anyone that may have knowledge about the fire. These investigators may also collaborate with other professionals such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys. Often, they also have formal training to investigate explosions as well. In the case that a fire or explosion was intentionally started, they may need to testify their findings in court. Fire investigators would also write a report detailing their findings from the investigation.
Because of the nature of the job, fire investigators could be exposed to hazardous conditions on the job and could work a variety of different hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays.
Fire Investigator Career Video Transcript
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 lookout 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.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fire Inspectors and Investigators.
National Center for O*NET Development. 33-2021.02. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.