Fire investigators identify the causes of fires. This involves determining whether a fire was accidental or intentional. They are responsible for collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and preparing reports for fires in cases where there might be a possibility of criminal negligence or arson. They examine the locations of fires and collect evidence such as metal fragments, glass, wood and residue to determine the cause of fires. As part of their investigations, they may need to package collected evidence in containers for further evaluation. Working with law enforcement, they may also be involved in investigations to determine the violation of fire laws, and may prepare and keep reports of investigation results.
- Most fire investigators have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training.
- They may work indoors and outdoors to conduct investigations and, therefore, may be exposed to various types of weather.
- A college degree in fire investigation can provide wider career options along with more opportunities for professional advancement.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average annual wage for fire inspectors and investigators was $56,310.
- Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow as fast as the average due to the growth of cities and other areas that will need fires investigated.
Work Environment for Fire Investigators
Fire investigators may visit different locations and may work outdoors and indoors to conduct inspections. While working outdoors, they may be exposed to various types of weather and temperatures.
Education, Training and Licensing
Most fire investigators possess a high school diploma and have previous experience in fire suppression. They receive on-the-job training in fire inspection or can attend a training academy. Some individuals can gain experience as volunteers or as lower level workers in police departments and fire houses, and then advance to the position of fire investigator. Individuals can complete degrees from postsecondary academic programs that are accredited such as colleges and universities in fire investigation and criminal justice. A college degree can provide wider career options and more opportunities for professional advancement.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings for Fire Investigators
According to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fire inspectors and investigators held approximately 12,180 jobs in May 2009. Most of these jobs were for local and state government. Other jobs were with investigation and security services, colleges, universities and professional schools and support services.
Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow as fast as the average. Demand for workers will stem from the growth of cities and other areas that will need fires investigated.
BLS records for May 2009 indicate that the average annual wage for fire inspectors and investigators was $56,310. The middle 50% earned between $41,570 and $69,010. While the lowest 10% had a yearly salary of $33,040 or less, the highest 10% earned upwards of $85,400 annually.