What Fire Inspectors Do
Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.
Fire inspectors and investigators work in offices and in the field. They typically work during regular business hours, but investigators may also work evenings, weekends, and holidays because they must be ready to respond when fires occur. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists spend much of their time outdoors.
How to Become a Fire Inspector
Fire inspectors and investigators, as well as forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists, typically have previous work experience as a firefighter. These workers need at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and receive on-the-job-training in inspection and investigation.
The median annual wage for fire inspectors and investigators was $61,660 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists was $45,270 in May 2019.
Employment of fire inspectors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Jobseekers should expect strong competition for the limited number of available positions.
Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. Fire investigators, another type of worker in this field, determine the origin and cause of fires and explosions. Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess outdoor fire hazards in public and residential areas.
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 fuel 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
- 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 outdoor fire hazards in 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.
Fire inspectors and investigators held about 14,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of fire inspectors and investigators were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||77%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||8|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||1|
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists held about 2,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||53%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||40|
Fire inspectors work both in offices and in the field. In the field, inspectors examine buildings such as apartment complexes and offices. They also may visit and inspect other structures, such as arenas and industrial plants. Fire investigators visit the scene of a fire. They may be exposed to poor ventilation, smoke, fumes, and other hazardous agents.
Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists spend much of their time outdoors, assessing the risks of fires in places such as forests, fields, and other natural or outdoor environments.
Injuries and Illnesses
Working at the scene of a fire can be dangerous. And injuries can occur when workers are patrolling in remote areas with rugged terrain.
Fire inspectors and investigators typically work during regular business hours, but investigators may also work evenings, weekends, and holidays because they must be ready to respond when fires occur.
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 2019|
Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$50,850|
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||$65,170|
Private Detectives and Investigators
Private detectives and investigators search for information about legal, financial, and personal matters.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$50,510|
Forensic Science Technicians
Forensic science technicians aid criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence.
For more information about federal fire investigator jobs, visit
For more information about fire inspectors’ and investigators’ training, visit
For information about standards for fire inspectors and investigators, visit
For information about certifications, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fire Inspectors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/fire-inspectors-and-investigators.htm (visited ).