What Do Fire Investigators Do?

When the cause of a fire cannot immediately be determined, fire departments, police departments, or insurance companies may hire a fire investigator. Fire investigators apply their knowledge of engineering, types of fires, and investigative methods to determine the cause of a fire. Continue reading to find out more about what fire investigators do. Schools offering Fire & Emergency Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Fire investigators go to work once a fire has been extinguished. A fire investigator's job is to find out what caused a fire and where it started. From investigating fire scenes to appearing in court to provide testimony in cases of arson or fatal fires, fire investigators perform many tasks. Most commonly, fire investigators must:

  • Study causes of a fire
  • Collect and analyze evidence
  • Testify in court

Important Facts About Fire Investigators

Entry-Level EducationHigh school diploma, some employers prefer associate or bachelor's degree
On-the-job TrainingWork with fire or police in inspection and investigation
CertificationRequirement varies by state; certification awarded by the National Fire Protection Association, International Association of Arson Investigators and National Association of Fire Investigators
LicensingRequired by some states for private fire investigators

Fire Scene Examination

Fire investigators must carefully go over fire scenes to determine the cause of a fire. They collect evidence, study fire damage, and conduct interviews with any witnesses. Fire investigators establish whether a fire has been accidental or deliberate. They must be familiar with building construction, engineering and electrical wiring.

Arson Investigation

An arson investigator's job is different than that of a fire investigator. If mechanical reasons for a fire have been ruled out, arson investigators must attempt to determine who might be responsible for the fire. Expertise in forensic pathology, arson scene investigation, and arson scene management is crucial to the job.

Courtroom Testimony

Fire investigators are frequently asked to testify in court and to provide evidence collected from fire scenes in trials of arson. At times, they might be called upon as expert witnesses. It is important that investigators maintain reports and records, and be prepared to submit digital photography of the fire scene to the court.

Employment and Salary Outlook

Employment opportunities for fire inspectors and investigators are predicted to grow at a faster-than-average pace of 10% from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The Bureau published the median annual salary for such inspectors and investigators as $62,510 in May 2018, noting that those employed by federal government organizations averaged salaries of $89,370 a year.

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