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Fire Inspector Duties and Responsibilities

Based on postings that we analyzed, most fire inspectors share several core responsibilities:

Inspect Structures for Fire Hazards The primary role of a fire inspector is to inspect structures, particularly buildings, for fire hazards during initial construction and during renovations. This aspect of the role requires a high level of familiarity with safety principles and best practices for fire protection. The fire inspector may check structures for emergency exits, flammable materials, and storage of potentially hazardous objects to determine the presence of threats.

Examine Buildings for Fire Control Equipment Fire inspectors check buildings to ensure that fire control equipment is present. The specific fire prevention and control equipment can vary depending on the type of building: a single-family home may simply need smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, for example, while a larger building needs pull stations and a sprinkler system. Fire inspectors both ensure that these devices are present and conduct periodic tests of their functionality.

Identify Fire Code Violations While inspecting buildings, fire inspectors identify fire code violations. This aspect of the role requires thorough knowledge of applicable local, state, and national fire codes to make sure that buildings adhere to guidelines and meet all material and egress specifications. In addition, fire inspectors need to make sure that they are informed of changing guidelines and updated codes each year.

Recommend and Enforce Corrective Actions If the fire inspector finds violations or hazards, they issue guidance related to corrective actions that building owners or occupants need to take. In some cases, this can include issuing fines or halting construction until the building's owner remedies the situation, while in other cases the fire inspector may determine a way to immediately fix the problem (such as replacing an out-of-date fire extinguisher).

Prepare Inspection Reports Fire inspectors also prepare, submit, and maintain fire inspection reports. These reports detail the inspector's findings and may also outline corrective actions that they recommended and those that the structure's owners have already taken. In many jurisdictions, the fire inspector submits these reports to local permit offices, which use them to decide whether to issue building or renovation permits.

Determine Causes of Fire If a fire occurs, fire inspectors support investigations by determining its cause. In this aspect of the role, the fire inspector uses their knowledge of combustion, burn patterns, and fire spreading to identify the causes of fires or explosions. The fire inspector may need to testify in court regarding their findings. For example, they may need to testify in a suspected arson case.


Fire Inspector Skills and Qualifications

Fire inspectors maintain safety and prevent fires by ensuring that buildings adhere to fire codes and inspecting sites after fires. Most fire inspectors have a high school diploma and the following skills:
  • Fire code knowledge - fire inspectors should have extensive knowledge of fire codes and hazards, and should have some experience with applying this knowledge to residential, commercial, and industrial construction and renovation
  • Familiarity with safety principles - this role also requires extensive familiarity with fire safety principles, such as evacuation routes, occupancy limits, and emergency exits, along with the ability to enforce these principles
  • Leadership and authority - fire inspectors often need to issue citations and order individuals and organizations to take corrective actions, so they should be strong leaders who can speak with authority on fire safety matters
  • Attention to detail - attention to detail is essential in this role, as fire inspectors need to examine many building elements and ensure that they adhere to local, state, and national fire codes
  • Communication skills - fire inspectors need to be strong written and verbal communicators in order to prepare inspection reports and communicate with contractors and fire departments

Fire Inspector Education and Training

Typically, fire inspectors have at least a high school diploma or GED. Most also have some experience with fire prevention, such as a background working as a firefighter. There are several different certification programs available to prepare fire inspectors for this career, including one offered by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fire inspectors need to keep up with new safety regulations and standards, so there are many opportunities for on-the-job training and professional development in this role.

Fire Inspector Salary and Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fire inspectors and investigators earn a median annual salary of $59,260. The highest-paid 10 percent of workers in this role earn more than $95,960 per year, while the lowest paid earn less than $34,800. The BLS expects employment in this field to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 10 percent by 2026.

Helpful Resources

If you're interested in a career as a fire inspector, we found many resources on the web for further reading and information:

National Fire Protection Association - the NFPA maintains fire codes and safety standards and offers a certification program and professional development materials for fire inspectors

Fire Inspection and Code Enforcement - this in-depth book provides information on fire code enforcement and risk management for any type of structure

US Fire Administration - the USFA offers training and professional development for fire inspectors and other fire prevention professionals, as well as public outreach materials and fire safety publications

Fire Inspector: Principles and Practice - read this complete guide to learn the principles and best practices of fire inspection and prevention

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