Fire Inspector and Investigator

Fire inspectors inspect buildings to detect potential fire hazards and to enforce local ordinances and national regulations. They also investigate fires and explosions and gather facts to determine their causes.

The main objective of these building inspections is to identify hazardous conditions and non-compliance with fire safety regulations such as the accumulation of combustible material, electrical wiring problems etc. as well as inadequate or non-functional fire escape routes and exits. They determine what corrective actions are necessary to ensure compliance with applicable bye-laws, fire regulations, codes and standards, and explain these measures to the property owners or their representatives.

They also conduct inspections and acceptance testing of newly installed fire protection systems to verify that they are installed in accordance with the appropriate regulations, codes and standards. They must also examine the plans and details of proposed new buildings to ensure that they meet the necessary fire safety requirements, as well as check the buildings on completion. Fire exit-ways for the occupants of buildings must be accessible at all times and not locked.

They need to conduct fire safety compliance follow-ups to ensure that corrective actions have been taken in cases where violations in existing buildings were found.

Fire inspectors also inspect properties that store, handle, or use hazardous materials to ensure compliance with the relevant laws, codes, and regulations and issue hazardous materials permits where facilities are found to be in compliance. They are required to prepare detailed reports of fire inspections performed, any fire regulation violations observed, and corrective recommendations made.

They attend training classes to keep up-to-date with current knowledge of fire prevention, safety, and fire-fighting procedures.

Fire inspectors are part detective, scientist, engineer and law enforcer, representing the multiple careers rolled into one. It is the fire investigator who must explore, determine and document the origin and cause of the fire, establish what human actions were responsible for it, then bring authoritative testimony to the courtroom to win a conviction in cases of arson. They have to take their own photographs, collect the evidence and do follow-up investigations. In instances of incendiary fires, they need to find the criminal.

An arson investigator will try to determine who is responsible for setting a fire; a fire investigator will attempt to determine the cause and origin of a fire. Most of the time fire investigators are also arson investigators. A background in mechanical, electrical, civil, and even chemical engineering plays a big role, to examine something that was destroyed and to be able to put it back together again, either in your mind or physically, to determine the origin and cause.

This technical aspect of the job requires knowledge of building construction and materials and the effects of fire upon those materials. Evidence preservation methods, the effects of fire suppression, fire behaviour and burn patterns are also important technical aspects. Search techniques must also be learned so that evidence of the cause of the fire and ignition sources are preserved during the investigation.


  • building plan approval departments

  • city / town fire departments

  • private / public forensic fire investigation units

  • insurance companies

  • attorneys

Getting Started

  • speak to a fire inspector or investigator about this career and ask to observe him/her at work

  • do research on arsonists and the causes of fire


Central University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology

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