Fire Investigating – It’s A Tough But Rewarding Career

For someone who likes variety and the challenges involved in wearing numerous hats, a fire investigator is probably an ideal career.

The responsibilities of a fire inspector are many.  They are responsible for investigating and finding the origins and causes of fires, including the role played by humans.  Then, having established all this, they are further tasked with providing evidence and testifying in court in order to bring charges against the perpetrators in cases of arson.  Therefore the ideal fire inspector is someone who enjoys being a detective, engineer, scientist and law enforcement officer.  All at the same time!

It’s also a career that is constantly evolving as arsonists become more and more sophisticated in order to try and outwit fire investigators.  Therefore, a good fire investigator must always be looking to advance their own knowledge and skill sets so as to keep, if not one step ahead, then at least abreast, of arsonists.

Fire investigators are employed in both the public and the private sector.  Local governments, police and fire departments and government agencies – both state and federal, typically employ public sector fire investigators.  In the private section, you may find fire investigators on the payroll of insurance companies, law firms or companies involved in fire investigating.  The National Fire Protection Association along with other similar organizations, also employ fire investigators.

There are many pathways to becoming a certified fire investigator.  In the public sector, many fire investigators start out as frontline fire fighters or police officers.  This is where they gain valuable fire ground experience as well as knowledge of fire behaviour or in criminal law.  Many then take up additional formal training in their spare time to advance their career.

On a national level, one of the biggest employers of fire investigators is the ATF, which has around 80 certified fire investigators on staff at any one time.  ATF fire investigators start out as ATF special agents.  Some are then chosen to take part in a special two-year fire investigation-training program, at the end of which they are certified as ATF fire investigators.  Advanced training is also available in specialised areas of investigation like fire sprinkler systems, fire growth, computer modelling and so on.

Private sector fire investigators either come from the public sector or have obtained some form of formal fire science or engineering qualification through a University or an institution like Oklahoma State.  After qualifying, graduates often find work with insurance companies or investigating firms and then work their way up.  Volunteering with the local firehouse to gain more experience, or to get a foot in the door of the public sector are also valid pathways.

Many fire investigators have spent a lot of their own time pursuing additional training and education to further their career.  Training such as that offered by agencies like the ATF, FBI and IAAI (International Association of Arson Investigators), by the National Fire Academy who run a two week training program in Maryland.  They attend basic arson investigation training run by police departments and take up relevant training offered by their local Fire Marshal’s Office.  All of which builds up a valuable resume of accreditations and certifications that will stand them in good stead when it comes to advancing their career as a fire investigator.  It’s also an important indication of self-motivation, something a successful fire investigator needs to have, in abundance.

This article is provided by Contact Ricky Rescue Fire Academy for more advice and help to take your fire career up a notch by becoming a Fire Officer in Florida and Tennessee.

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