What are the Different Fire Investigator Jobs?

Erin Oxendine

A fire investigator looks into the cause and origin of a fire. Local departments and government agencies employ fire examiners, with several different jobs available in this field. In certain fire investigator jobs, the investigator may be asked to testify before a jury.

A fire investigator determines the cause and origin of fires.
A fire investigator determines the cause and origin of fires.

One job choice for a fire investigator is with a local fire department. At some smaller fire departments, the fire chief maintains a dual position of fire investigator and chief. If the fire chief needs assistance to determine the cause of a fire, the chief may call in an outside investigator.

Fire investigators conduct evaluations for arson.
Fire investigators conduct evaluations for arson.

Another position an investigator might consider is a Fire Marshal. Fire Marshals work for local and county agencies. This position might entail organizing fire prevention programs and issuing permits for fires. Persons employed as a marshal might also monitor fires that are near residential houses.

In the United States, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has fire investigator jobs. The ATF investigator is assigned to cases where arson is suspected. This division requires a law enforcement background as well as experience in fire investigations. Investigators sometimes recreate a fire in a controlled setting in order to analyze the fire pattern and see how fast the fire burns.

Forensic fire investigators are another type of fire investigator jobs. These investigators give their legal and scientific analysis of how a fire started. Insurance companies have catastrophic forensic fire investigators to work on claims that involve property loss or bodily injury. Some of the things the investigator might check would be equipment failure and faulty wires.

A certified fire and explosion analyst works with engineering companies. This person typically has a construction and forensics background. For example, if a company was hired to demolish an old building, a fire and explosion analyst would most likely be on hand to ensure the explosion was conducted the right way.

Insurance companies hire fire investigators if they suspect that someone has purposely set a fire to an insured home or building. In some cases, the homeowner may have possibly set a fire to avoid paying taxes or to collect insurance money. The claims representative can get the expert opinion of a fire investigator and decide whether or not the claim is valid. If the homeowner has committed a crime, the homeowner might be charged with arson if found guilty.

Many of the fire investigator jobs are stressful and require long hours. For someone interested in a set schedule and less pressure, the investigator might want to consider teaching in a classroom. Some investigators teach classes on how to distinguish fire patterns and conduct arson evaluations.

Job requirements for the most of these fire investigator jobs include certification from a local fire academy and criminal law. Individuals may also have experience as police officers and firefighting. Classes in science, chemistry and engineering would also be helpful. Investigators who want to work for a federal agency often work as an agent for several years before applying for this position.

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