Fire Inspectors

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 fire inspector Jobs

  • Sprinkler Inspector - Koetter Fire Protection of Austin - Pflugerville, TX

    Working knowledge of fire sprinkler system components. • Working knowledge of fire sprinkler system shop drawings. • Working knowledge of Wet

  • Inspector - VSC Fire & Security, Inc. - North Charleston, SC

    NICET certification in the Inspection and Testing of Water-Based Systems is preferred. Portables and fixed system experience is a plus. Experience

  • Fire Protection Inspector - Eastern Fire Protection - Woonsocket, RI

    Inspections and testing of fire extinguishers. • Completion of the NFPA report forms associated with the various systems being inspected

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What Fire Inspectors Do[About this section] [To Top]

Fire inspectors examine buildings to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions.

Duties of Fire Inspectors

Fire inspectors typically do the following:

  • Search for fire hazards
  • Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
  • Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection equipment
  • Inspect gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct followup visits to make sure that infractions do not recur
  • Review building plans with developers
  • Conduct fire and safety education programs
  • Maintain fire inspection files that may be used in a court of law
  • Administer burn permits and monitor controlled burns

Fire investigators typically do the following:

  • Collect and analyze evidence from scenes of fires and explosions
  • Interview witnesses
  • Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
  • Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or accelerants
  • Analyze information with chemists, engineers, and attorneys
  • Document evidence by taking photographs and creating diagrams
  • Determine the origin and cause of a fire
  • Keep detailed records and protect evidence for use in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings
  • Exercise police powers, such as the power of arrest, and carry a weapon

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for fire code infractions and for conditions that pose a wildfire risk. They also recommend ways to reduce fire hazards. During patrols, they enforce fire regulations and report fire conditions to their central command center.

Work Environment for Fire Inspectors[About this section] [To Top]

Fire inspectors hold about 14,100 jobs. Fire inspectors and investigators hold about 12,400 of those jobs, while forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists hold the remaining 1,700 jobs. About 88 percent of all fire inspectors work for state and local governments. A few also work for insurance companies or attorneys’ offices.

Fire inspectors work both in offices and in the field. In the field, inspectors examine public buildings, such as museums, and multifamily residential buildings, such as high-rise condominiums. They may also visit and inspect other structures, such as arenas and industrial plants. Investigators must visit the scene where a fire has occurred. They may be exposed to poor ventilation, smoke, fumes, and other hazardous agents.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists check on outdoor installations and open land to assess the risk of fire in those places.

Injuries and Illnesses

Fire inspectors and investigators have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. For example, it can be very dangerous to walk on unstable, fire-damaged structures. Also, inhaling fumes from a fire can result in adverse health issues.

When working in the field, inspectors and investigators often must wear protective clothing, such as boots, gloves, and a helmet.

Fire Inspector Work Schedules

Fire inspectors typically work during regular business hours, but investigators often work evenings, weekends, and holidays because they must be ready to respond when fires happen.

How to Become a Fire Inspector[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Fire Inspectors near you!

Fire inspectors and investigators typically have previous work experience as a firefighter or police officer, where many have completed a postsecondary educational program for emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists typically enter the occupation with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Workers attend training academies and receive on-the-job training in inspection and investigation.

Fire inspectors and investigators usually must pass a background check, which may include a drug test. Most employers also require inspectors and investigators to have a valid driver’s license, and investigators usually need to be U.S. citizens because of their police powers.

Fire Inspector Education

Because fire inspectors and investigators typically have previous work experience as a firefighter or police officer, many have completed a postsecondary educational program for emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Some employers prefer candidates with a 2- or 4-year degree in fire science, engineering, or chemistry. For those candidates interested in becoming forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists, a high school education is typically required.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most fire inspectors and investigators are required to have work experience in a related occupation, such as firefighters or police officers. Some fire departments or law enforcement agencies require investigators to have a certain number of years within the organization or to be a certain rank, such as lieutenant or captain, before they are eligible for promotion to an inspector or investigator position. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists also may need experience working in the fire service before being hired.

Fire Inspector Training

Training requirements vary by state, but programs usually include instruction in a classroom setting in addition to on-the-job training.

Classroom training often takes place at a fire or police academy over the course of several months. A variety of topics are covered, including guidelines for conducting an inspection or investigation, legal codes, courtroom procedures, protocols for handling hazardous and explosive materials, and the proper use of equipment.

In most agencies, after inspectors and investigators have finished their classroom training, they also receive on-the-job training, during which they work with a more experienced officer.

Employers, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and organizations, such as the National Fire Academy and the International Association of Arson Investigators, offer training programs in fire investigation.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states have certification exams that cover standards established by the National Fire Protection Association. Many states require additional training for inspectors and investigators each year in order for them to maintain their certification.

The National Fire Protection Association also offers several certifications, such as Certified Fire Inspector and Certified Fire Protection Specialist, for fire inspectors. Some jobs in the private sector require that job candidates already have these certifications.

In addition, fire investigators may choose to pursue certification from a nationally recognized professional association, such as the Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) certification from the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) or the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) certification from the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also offers a CFI certification, although the program is available only to ATF employees. The process of obtaining certification can teach new skills and demonstrate competency.

Fire investigators who work for private companies may have to obtain a private investigator license from their state.

Important Qualities for Fire Inspectors

Communication skills. Fire inspectors must clearly explain fire code violations to building and property managers. They must carefully interview witnesses as part of their factfinding mission.

Critical-thinking skills. Fire inspectors must be able to recognize code violations and recommend a way to fix the problem. They must be able to analyze evidence from a fire and come to a reasonable conclusion.

Detail oriented. Fire inspectors must notice details when inspecting a site for code violations or investigating the cause of a fire.

Integrity. Fire inspectors must be consistent in the methods they use to enforce fire codes. They must be unbiased when conducting their research and when testifying as an expert witness in court.

Physical strength. Fire inspectors may have to move debris at the site of a fire in order to get a more accurate understanding of the scene.

Fire Inspector Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for fire inspectors and investigators is $56,730. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,120.

The median annual wage for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists is $36,650. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,430.

Fire inspectors typically work during regular business hours, but investigators often work evenings, weekends, and holidays because they must be ready to respond when fires happen.

Job Outlook for Fire Inspectors[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of fire inspectors is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of fire inspectors and investigators is projected to grow 5 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Fire inspectors will be needed to assess potential fire hazards in newly constructed residential, commercial, public, and other buildings in the coming decade. Fire inspectors will also be needed to ensure that existing buildings meet updated and revised federal, state, and local fire codes each year. Although the number of structural fires occurring across the country has been falling for some time, fire investigators will still be needed to determine the cause of fires and explosions.

Employment of forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists is projected to grow 13 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists are expected to be needed to help prevent and control the increasingly destructive wildfires that the United States has been experiencing.

Fire Inspectors Job Prospects

Jobseekers should expect strong competition for the number of available positions. Many job openings will come from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Those who have previous work experience in fire suppression, have completed some fire science education, or have training related to criminal investigation should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Fire Inspectors, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Fire inspectors 14,100 15,000 6 900
  Fire inspectors and investigators 12,400 13,100 5 700
  Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists 1,700 2,000 13 200


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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