Career Profile: Fire Investigator/Inspector
Imagine a fire flickering and sparking as the logs burn and settle down. Would you enjoy watching it? Many people find fires calming and fascinating to watch, at least ones that stay controlled. However, a fire nicely contained in a fireplace at home or the cooking area of a campsite is not like a fire that burns down a house. Dealing with the fires that happen in buildings and cause destruction are the work of fire inspectors, who try to prevent
fires, and fire investigators, who try to find out why fires happen. Together, they try to reduce the damage that fire causes to property and people.
Fire inspectors and investigators work on different parts of the same problem. Fire inspectors check buildings to make sure that the rules about fire safety are being followed. They check to make sure that buildings have enough working fire extinguishers. They might check for proper storage of dangerous substances like gasoline. In some cases, they might check the electric wiring in a building to make sure that everything is working and that there are no frayed wires that might cause a spark. When they can, fire inspectors also teach people about how to keep fires from starting, and they work with insurance companies to try to maintain high safety standards. If they do their job well, they can help prevent many accidental fires from ever starting.
Fire investigators work from a somewhat different angle, but they deal with many of the same things. Like fire inspectors, they check buildings for dangerous substances and faulty wiring. They might check to make sure that the fire extinguishers are working. However, fire investigators do their work after a fire instead of before. When a building has burned, even partially, fire investigators go in to find out what happened. They work with the police and insurance companies to find out what started each fire. What they find helps them decide what started a fire and if it was accidental or set on purpose.
Becoming a fire inspector takes a basic education, such as a high school diploma, but a lot of experience. Most people who get into this work start as firefighters, learning the principles of safety and detection on the job. Taking several courses on fire prevention is usually enough to qualify experienced firefighters for the work of fire inspector. Many fire investigators have a bachelor’s degree or more. Salaries for fire inspectors and investigators can vary widely, depending on the person’s experience, the size of the fire department, and other factors. Generally, however, fire inspectors’ salaries start at over $50,000.00 and investigators’ pay starts even higher. Many investigators receive $80,000 per year or more.
Fire inspectors and investigators generally have fairly good working conditions and face few dangers in the job, although looking through a burned-out building can be unpleasant. They job has a high level of responsibility, but it can be both challenging and rewarding. Does the job of fire inspector or investigator appeal to you?