Fire inspectors/investigators work to prevent accidental fires and also investigate the causes of these situations. They typically work from a fire marshal's office within a town or city jurisdiction; in their dual role, they provide services to city safety and building officials as well as law enforcement and emergency services. Large insurance companies with a number of fire insurance policy holders may also employ fire inspectors/investigators to assist in determining premium rates and reimbursement responsibilities.
In the role of an inspector, this person must carefully move through a building or structure to examine all areas that may be vulnerable to the outbreak of a fire. They take careful notes of wiring, wiring diagrams, heating and boiler provisions within the structure, and also how well the building is structured for rapid evacuation when necessary. Most jurisdictions require a fire inspection before granting an occupation permit for businesses, as well as periodic re-inspections with business license renewals. For insurers, these inspections are meant to provide policy holders with prevention recommendations as well as a way to assess risk when setting the costs of premiums.
Because fires are so dangerous to property and human life, after a fire has occurred a jurisdiction will typically dispatch a fire investigator from the fire marshal's office to assist in determining the origin and causes of the situation. This can help to prevent future occurrences, as well as provide information on criminal activity or civil liability and negligence. For insurance providers, the investigation can also provide the company with insight on whether the cause and spread of the fire falls within the parameters of covered damages on a policy and, if applicable, establish the extent of reimbursement.
Most fire inspectors/investigators begin their careers as active firemen and emergency personnel, which provides practical experience in the field, and prospective investigators/inspectors should also have a college degree in a relevant field. While some of the work is performed in an office environment, it also includes a great deal of field work by necessity and even travel on occasion. Most fire inspectors/investigators work full-time during regular business hours.
Fire Inspector / Investigator Tasks
Inspect site for fire hazards, prevention, and safety requirements.
Communicate with authorities, customers, and complete follow up inspections.
Inspect flammable liquid and chemical storage practices.
Ensure plans for new construction meets fire codes.