Fire Inspectors and Investigators

This is a sub-career of Fire Inspector

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Job Outlook:
Faster than average
Education: Postsecondary nondegree award
High: $125,610.00
Average: $76,910.00
Average: $36.98

What they do:

Inspect buildings to detect fire hazards and enforce local ordinances and state laws, or investigate and gather facts to determine cause of fires and explosions.

On the job, you would:

  • Prepare and maintain reports of investigation results, and records of convicted arsonists and arson suspects.
  • Testify in court cases involving fires, suspected arson, and false alarms.
  • Package collected pieces of evidence in securely closed containers, such as bags, crates, or boxes, to protect them.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Fire inspectors must clearly explain fire code violations to building and property managers. Fire investigators must thoroughly interview witnesses, including those who may be distressed or uncooperative, as part of their factfinding mission.

Critical-thinking skills. Fire investigators must be able to analyze evidence from a fire and come to a reasonable conclusion.

Detail oriented. Fire inspectors must notice minutiae when inspecting sites for code violations or fire risks or for investigating the cause of a fire.

Physical stamina. Fire investigators may be required to sort through debris at the scene of a fire for long periods, often while wearing heavy or uncomfortable protective gear.

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

Problem-solving skills. Fire inspectors must be able to recognize code violations and fire risks and recommend a way to fix them.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Characteristics of this Career

93% Integrity  -  Job requires being honest and ethical.
87% Cooperation  -  Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
85% Attention to Detail  -  Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
84% Dependability  -  Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
80% Initiative  -  Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
76% Concern for Others  -  Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
75% Self-Control  -  Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
75% Adaptability/Flexibility  -  Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
75% Stress Tolerance  -  Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
74% Analytical Thinking  -  Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
74% Persistence  -  Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
73% Leadership  -  Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
67% Independence  -  Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
65% Social Orientation  -  Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
65% Achievement/Effort  -  Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
A3 Your Strengths Importance


83% Realistic  -  Work involves designing, building, or repairing of equipment, materials, or structures, engaging in physical activity, or working outdoors. Realistic occupations are often associated with engineering, mechanics and electronics, construction, woodworking, transportation, machine operation, agriculture, animal services, physical or manual labor, athletics, or protective services.
75% Conventional  -  Work involves following procedures and regulations to organize information or data, typically in a business setting. Conventional occupations are often associated with office work, accounting, mathematics/statistics, information technology, finance, or human resources.
61% Investigative  -  Work involves studying and researching non-living objects, living organisms, disease or other forms of impairment, or human behavior. Investigative occupations are often associated with physical, life, medical, or social sciences, and can be found in the fields of humanities, mathematics/statistics, information technology, or health care service.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Values of the Work Environment

70% Achievement  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
70% Support  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
70% Independence  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
61% Working Conditions  -  Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.


A3 Your Strengths Importance

Abilities | Cognitive, Physical, Personality

78% Problem Sensitivity  -  The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
75% Written Comprehension  -  The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
75% Written Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
75% Oral Comprehension  -  The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
72% Oral Expression  -  The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
72% Deductive Reasoning  -  The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
69% Inductive Reasoning  -  The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
69% Information Ordering  -  The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
66% Near Vision  -  The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).

Job Details

Record information about suspects or criminals.
Prepare investigation or incident reports.
Testify at legal or legislative proceedings.
Process forensic or legal evidence in accordance with procedures.
Inspect equipment to ensure safety or proper functioning.
Analyze crime scene evidence.
Record crime or accident scene evidence with video or still cameras.
Examine debris to obtain information about causes of fires.
Inspect facilities to ensure compliance with fire regulations.
Educate the public about fire safety or prevention.
Inspect facilities to ensure compliance with fire regulations.
Inspect facilities to ensure compliance with security or safety regulations.
Issue permits or other legal documents.
Write operational reports.
Identify actions needed to bring properties or facilities into compliance with regulations.
Inform others about laws or regulations.
Develop fire safety or prevention programs or plans.
Inspect equipment to ensure safety or proper functioning.
Collaborate with law enforcement or security agencies to respond to incidents.
Attend training to learn new skills or update knowledge.
Review documents or materials for compliance with policies or regulations.
Train personnel to enhance job skills.
Train personnel in technical or scientific procedures.
Provide safety training.
Educate the public about fire safety or prevention.
Recommend improvements to increase safety or reduce risks.
Interview people to gather information about criminal activities.
Investigate crimes committed within organizations.
Examine debris to obtain information about causes of fires.
Examine crime scenes to obtain evidence.
Maintain fire fighting tools or equipment.
Issue permits or other legal documents.
Evaluate employee performance.
Train employees in proper work procedures.
Direct fire fighting or prevention activities.
Develop fire safety or prevention programs or plans.
Direct fire fighting or prevention activities.
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Attributes & Percentage of Time Spent

99% Face-to-Face Discussions  -  How often do you have to have face-to-face discussions with individuals or teams in this job?
98% Telephone  -  How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?
98% Contact With Others  -  How much does this job require the worker to be in contact with others (face-to-face, by telephone, or otherwise) in order to perform it?
98% Electronic Mail  -  How often do you use electronic mail in this job?
92% In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment  -  How often does this job require working in a closed vehicle or equipment (e.g., car)?
92% Deal With External Customers  -  How important is it to work with external customers or the public in this job?
92% Structured versus Unstructured Work  -  To what extent is this job structured for the worker, rather than allowing the worker to determine tasks, priorities, and goals?
89% Freedom to Make Decisions  -  How much decision making freedom, without supervision, does the job offer?
88% Importance of Being Exact or Accurate  -  How important is being very exact or highly accurate in performing this job?
86% Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results  -  What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the image or reputation or financial resources of your employer?
85% Frequency of Decision Making  -  How frequently is the worker required to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the image and reputation of the organization?
83% Outdoors, Exposed to Weather  -  How often does this job require working outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?
80% Work With Work Group or Team  -  How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?
78% Indoors, Environmentally Controlled  -  How often does this job require working indoors in environmentally controlled conditions?
74% Time Pressure  -  How often does this job require the worker to meet strict deadlines?
72% Coordinate or Lead Others  -  How important is it to coordinate or lead others in accomplishing work activities in this job?
72% Letters and Memos  -  How often does the job require written letters and memos?
71% Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets  -  How much does this job require wearing common protective or safety equipment such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hard hats or life jackets?
67% Responsible for Others' Health and Safety  -  How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?
A3 Your Strengths Importance

Tasks & Values

92% Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards  -  Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
90% Performing for or Working Directly with the Public  -  Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
90% Documenting/Recording Information  -  Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
88% Communicating with People Outside the Organization  -  Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
88% Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge  -  Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
87% Getting Information  -  Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
85% Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials  -  Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
83% Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates  -  Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
83% Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events  -  Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
80% Making Decisions and Solving Problems  -  Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
76% Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships  -  Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
75% Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work  -  Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
75% Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others  -  Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
74% Working with Computers  -  Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
71% Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings  -  Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
71% Scheduling Work and Activities  -  Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
69% Performing General Physical Activities  -  Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
68% Processing Information  -  Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
67% Analyzing Data or Information  -  Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
66% Assisting and Caring for Others  -  Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.

What Fire Inspectors Do

Fire inspectors and investigators
Fire inspectors inspect building plans to ensure that they meet fire codes.

Fire inspectors detect fire hazards, recommend prevention measures, ensure compliance with state and local fire codes, and investigate causes of fires.


Fire inspectors and investigators examine buildings and scenes of fires; forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess conditions for outdoor fire risks.

Fire inspectors and investigators typically do the following:

  • Search buildings for fire hazards
  • Review building blueprints with developers
  • Ensure that existing buildings and designs comply with fire codes
  • Conduct fire and safety education programs and review emergency evacuation plans
  • Collect and analyze evidence from scenes of fires and explosions
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings
  • Work with law enforcement or exercise police powers, such as the power of arrest, and carry a weapon

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists typically do the following:

  • Patrol assigned areas to look for forest fires, hazardous conditions, and weather phenomena that pose wildfire risk
  • Assist in wildfire suppression
  • Operate, maintain, and repair firefighting equipment
  • Review development proposals and inspect areas for nonconforming properties or structures
  • Create and administer programs to educate the public about forest fire risks and prevention 

Fire inspectors and investigators examine buildings to look for fire hazards and study fire scenes to determine the cause of a fire. Inspectors visit homes, offices, hazardous materials storage facilities, or other buildings to enforce local ordinances and state laws. They may test fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire prevention equipment as part of their inspections. Investigators may have to clear and sort through debris at the scene of a fire or explosion for evidence such as glass, metal fragments, and accelerant residue. They analyze the evidence they collect and may interview witnesses as part of their investigation.

In some areas, inspectors also work as investigators.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess outdoor fire hazards in public and residential areas. Similar to fire inspectors who visit buildings, forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists look for fire code violations and for conditions that pose a fire risk. They also recommend ways to reduce fire hazards. During patrols, they enforce fire regulations, report fire conditions to their central command center, and extinguish small fires they encounter. For large fires, they may direct the efforts of wildland firefighters.

Fire inspectors, investigators, and prevention specialists keep detailed records of their inspections and investigations. Inspectors and prevention specialists identify infractions, document corrective action required, and conduct followup inspections to ensure compliance with instructions. Investigators document all the evidence from a fire scene to help determine the cause and may need to refer to their notes and files during legal proceedings.

Work Environment

Fire inspectors and investigators held about 15,000 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of fire inspectors and investigators were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 75%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 8
Administrative and support services 8
Specialty trade contractors 2
Educational services; state, local, and private 2

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists held about 2,400 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 51%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 43

Fire inspectors work both in office settings and onsite, including outdoors. Fire inspectors and investigators visit buildings, such as apartment complexes and industrial plants. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists travel to natural environments, such as forests and fields.

During onsite visits, fire inspectors may work in poorly ventilated areas and be exposed to smoke, fumes, and other hazardous agents. They may wear personal protective equipment (PPE)—including coveralls, gloves, shoe covers, and safety glasses or goggles—to reduce exposure to harmful materials. Some must wear fully enclosed protective suits, often for several hours, which may make their work physically demanding and strenuous.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists spend much of their time outdoors.

Injuries and Illnesses

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Working at the scene of a fire can be dangerous. Injuries may occur when workers are patrolling in remote areas with rugged terrain. 

To reduce their risk of injury and illness, workers often wear PPE during patrols or investigations.

Work Schedules

Most fire inspectors work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Their schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays because they must be ready to respond when fires occur.

Getting Started

Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production)
Some College Courses

How to Become a Fire Inspector

Fire inspectors and investigators
Many fire inspectors and investigators have a firefighter background.

To enter the occupation, fire inspectors typically need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent and work experience as a firefighter or in a related occupation. Once hired, they typically receive on-the-job-training in inspection and investigation.

Fire inspectors usually must pass a background check, which may include a drug test. Employers also typically require that candidates have a valid driver’s license. Because of their police powers, investigators and inspectors may need to be U.S. citizens. They also may need certification.


Fire inspectors’ education requirements vary, but most need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some need postsecondary instruction, such as that required for emergency medical technician (EMT) certification.

Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a 2- or 4-year degree in fire science or a field related to the position. For example, fire investigators might have a degree in criminal justice, and forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists might have a degree in forestry or forest management. In some cases, postsecondary education may substitute for work experience.


Training requirements for fire inspectors vary. Programs are available through employers, federal agencies, and professional organizations and usually include both technical instruction and on-the-job training.

Technical instruction often takes place over several months at a fire or police academy. Topics covered include inspection or investigation processes, legal codes, courtroom procedures, hazardous and explosive materials handling protocol, and proper use of equipment.

After inspectors and investigators complete technical instruction, they typically also receive on-the-job training, during which they work with an experienced inspector or investigator.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Fire inspectors typically need several years of work experience as a firefighter or in a related occupation. For example, experience in building inspection or law enforcement may be helpful for fire inspectors and investigators, respectively, and experience in forestry or land management may be helpful for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Requirements for licensure or certification vary by state or locality. Check with your state licensing agency or local fire department for more information.

The International Code Council and The National Fire Protection Association offer additional certification for fire inspectors.

Fire investigators also may choose to pursue more certification from a nationally recognized professional association. Among these are the Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) certification from the International Association of Arson Investigators and the Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI) certification from the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI).

The National Fire Protection Association also offers Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist certification for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of fire inspectors is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,600 openings for fire inspectors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Projected employment of fire inspectors varies by occupation (see table).

Fire inspectors will be needed to assess potential fire hazards in newly constructed residential, commercial, public, and other buildings. Fire inspectors also will be needed to ensure that existing buildings meet updated federal, state, and local fire codes. 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.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists are expected to be needed to help prevent and control increasingly destructive wildfires.

Contacts for More Information

For more information about federal fire investigator jobs, visit

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For more information about training for fire inspectors, visit

National Fire Academy

Wildland Fire Training | US Forest Service

For more information about certifications and standards for fire inspectors, visit

International Association of Arson Investigators

International Code Council

National Association of Fire Investigators

National Fire Protection Association

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of fire inspectors.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2022
Construction and building inspectors Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $64,480
Firefighters Firefighters

Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies involving life, property, or the environment.

Postsecondary nondegree award $51,680
Forensic science technicians Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence.

Bachelor's degree $63,740
Police and detectives Police and Detectives

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

See How to Become One $69,160
Private detectives and investigators Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.

High school diploma or equivalent $52,120

Information provided by CareerFitter, LLC and other sources.

Sections of this page includes information from the O*NET 27.3 Database by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.

CareerFitter, LLC has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.