What is a Fire Inspector?

Also known as: Fire Protection Specialist, Fire Prevention Specialist, Fire Safety Inspector, Fire Prevention Inspector, Fire Protection Inspector.

Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire inspectors work both in offices and in the field. In the field, inspectors examine public buildings and multi-family residential buildings.

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What does a Fire Inspector do?

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 and extinguishing equipment
  • Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
  • Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
  • Conduct fire and life safety education programs
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.

How to become a Fire Inspector

Most fire inspectors have a high school diploma and experience working in either a fire or police department. They attend training academies and receive on-the-job training in inspection or investigation. Fire inspectors usually must pass a background check, which may include a drug test. Most positions also require inspectors to be U.S. citizens and have a valid driver’s license.

Most fire inspectors’ jobs require a high school diploma. However, some employers prefer candidates with a 2- or 4-year degree in related disciplines, such as fire science, engineering, or chemistry. Most fire inspectors are required to have work experience in a related occupation. Some fire departments or law enforcement agencies require inspectors 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. In most agencies, after inspectors have finished their classroom training, they must also go through on-the-job training or a probationary period, during which they work with a more experienced officer. Inspectors must explain codes clearly, and investigators must carefully interview witnesses.

Inspectors must be able to recognize code violations and recommend a way to fix the problem. Investigators must be able to analyze evidence and determine a reasonable conclusion. They must notice details when inspecting a site for code violations or investigating the cause of a 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.

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