Summary Report for:
33-2021.02 - Fire Investigators
Conduct investigations to determine causes of fires and explosions.
Sample of reported job titles: Arson Investigator, Chief Arson Division, Fire and Explosion Investigator, Fire Captain, Fire Chief, Fire Investigator, Fire Lieutenant, Fire Marshal, Investigator, State Fire Marshal
Tasks | Tools & Technology | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Examine fire sites and collect evidence such as glass, metal fragments, charred wood, and accelerant residue for use in determining the cause of a fire.
- Photograph damage and evidence related to causes of fires or explosions to document investigation findings.
- Analyze evidence and other information to determine probable cause of fire or explosion.
- Package collected pieces of evidence in securely closed containers, such as bags, crates, or boxes, to protect them.
- Testify in court cases involving fires, suspected arson, and false alarms.
- Prepare and maintain reports of investigation results, and records of convicted arsonists and arson suspects.
- Subpoena and interview witnesses, property owners, and building occupants to obtain information and sworn testimony.
- Coordinate efforts with other organizations, such as law enforcement agencies.
- Swear out warrants, and arrest and process suspected arsonists.
- Test sites and materials to establish facts, such as burn patterns and flash points of materials, using test equipment.
- Instruct children about the dangers of fire.
- Dust evidence or portions of fire scenes for latent fingerprints.
- Conduct internal investigation to determine negligence and violation of laws and regulations by fire department employees.
Tools & Technology
Tools used in this occupation:
- Adjustable wrenches — Adjustable hand wrenches
- Anemometers — Digital anemometers
- Ball peen hammer — Ball peen hammers
- Barometers — Digital barometers
- Bolt cutters
- Box end wrenches
- Bullet proof vests — Ballistic vests
- Camera flashes or lighting — Camera flash attachments
- Camera lens — Camera lenses
- Camera tripods — Camera positioning tripods
- Circuit tester — Circuit continuity testers
- Claw hammer — Claw hammers
- Cold chisels — Flat cold chisels
- Digital camcorders or video cameras — Digital video cameras
- Digital voice recorders — Digital audio recorders
- Direction finding compasses — Magnetic compasses
- Dosing droppers — Eye droppers
- Ear muffs — Protective ear muffs
- Emergency medical services first aid kits — Emergency first aid kits
- End cut pliers — Side-cutting pliers
- Fingerprint equipment — Fingerprint kits
- Fire extinguishers — Portable fire extinguishers
- Fire suppression hand tools — Fire rakes
- Flashlight — High powered flashlights
- Flood light — Flood lighting
- Forestry saws — Crosscut saws
- Fuse pullers — Fuse pulling tools
- Gas chromatographs
- Gas detectors — Multigas detectors; Photoionization detectors
- Gas generators — Gasoline powered generators
- GFI circuit testers — Ground fault testers
- Hacksaw — Hacksaws
- Handcuffs — Metal handcuffs
- Handguns — Law enforcement handguns
- Handheld thermometer — Dry bulb thermometers
- Hatchets — Fire axes
- Hydrocarbons analyzers or detectors — Catalytic combustion detectors CCD; Hydrocarbon detectors
- Laboratory forceps — Evidence collection forceps
- Ladders — Stepladders
- Laser fax machine — Laser facsimile machines
- Levels — Bar levels; Torpedo levels
- Lightmeters — Photographic meters
- Linemans pliers — Linesman's pliers
- Locking pliers — Vise grip pliers
- Magnetic tools — Pencil magnets
- Magnifying glass — Magnifiers
- Masks or accessories — Dust masks
- Mobile phones — Smart phones
- Notebook computers — Laptop computers
- Pad or keyhole saw — Keyhole saws
- Personal computers
- Pipe or tube cutter — Universal pipe cutters
- Pipe wrenches — Adjustable pipe wrenches
- Plumb bobs — Laser plumb bobs
- Pocket knives
- Power drills — Cordless drills
- Protective coats — Firefighters' coats
- Protective pants — Firefighters' pants
- Pry bars — Crowbars; Pinch bars
- Psychrometers — Wet bulb thermometers
- Putty knives
- Rakes — Steel-tine garden rakes
- Rangefinders — Laser rangefinders
- Razor knives — Pen knives
- Respiration air supplying self contained breathing apparatus or accessories — Self-contained breathing apparatus
- Respirators — Filter mask respirators
- Rulers — Photographic rulers; Precision rulers
- Safety glasses — Protective eyewear
- Safety helmets — Fire helmets
- Safety hoods — Firefighting hoods
- Screwdrivers — Bit drivers; Phillips screwdrivers; Straight blade screwdrivers
- Shears — Carpet cutters
- Shovels — Flathead shovels
- Single gas monitors — Single gas detectors
- Sledge hammer — Sledgehammers
- Slip or groove joint pliers — Slip-lock pliers
- Specialty wrenches — Hydrant wrenches
- Spectrophotometers — Portable spectroscopes
- Still cameras — 35 millimeter cameras
- Sump pumps — Portable sump pumps
- Tablet computers — Portable computers
- Tape measures — Steel tape measures
- Tinners snips — Tin snips
- Trowels — Masonry trowels
- Tweezers — Evidence tweezers
- Two way radios — Mobile radios
- Ultraviolet UV lamps — Ultraviolet UV lights
- Utility knives — Multipurpose knives
- Voltage or current meters — Voltage indicators
- Wire cutters — Wire cutting tools
- Wire gauge — Wire gauges
- Wire-stripping pliers — Wire strippers
- Wood chisels
- X ray radiography examination equipment — X ray inspection equipment
Technology used in this occupation:
- Analytical or scientific software — Consolidated Model of Fire and Smoke Transport CFAST; Fire Dynamics Software FDS *
- Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access; National Fire Incident Reporting System NFIRS *
- Electronic mail software — Email software
- Human resources software — Xerox Government systems FIREHOUSE Software
- Internet browser software — Web browser software
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
* Software developed by a government agency and/or distributed as freeware or shareware.
- Law and Government — Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
- Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
- Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
- Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- Building and Construction — Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
- Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Clerical — Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
- Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
- Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
- Communications and Media — Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
- Personnel and Human Resources — Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
- Telecommunications — Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
- Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- 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 there is a problem.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- 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).
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Multilimb Coordination — The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
- Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
- Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Static Strength — The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
- Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- 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.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Communicating with Persons Outside 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.
- Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment — Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or water craft.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- 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 of materials.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
- 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.
- Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Performing Administrative Activities — Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
- Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
- Provide Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
- Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
Detailed Work Activities
- Prepare investigation or incident reports.
- Examine debris to obtain information about causes of fires.
- Process forensic or legal evidence in accordance with procedures.
- Testify at legal or legislative proceedings.
- Analyze crime scene evidence.
- Examine crime scenes to obtain evidence.
- Record crime or accident scene evidence with video or still cameras.
- Investigate crimes committed within organizations.
- Apprehend criminal suspects.
- Record information about suspects or criminals.
- Interview people to gather information about criminal activities.
- Collaborate with law enforcement or security agencies to respond to incidents.
- Educate the public about fire safety or prevention.
- Telephone — 100% responded “Every day.”
- Deal With External Customers — 90% responded “Extremely important.”
- Electronic Mail — 93% responded “Every day.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 84% responded “Very important results.”
- In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment — 82% responded “Every day.”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 71% responded “Every day.”
- Contact With Others — 65% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 70% responded “Extremely important.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 60% responded “Extremely important.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 64% responded “Every day.”
- Consequence of Error — 73% responded “Extremely serious.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 69% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 48% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Duration of Typical Work Week — 67% responded “More than 40 hours.”
- Exposed to Contaminants — 69% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Letters and Memos — 41% responded “Every day.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 61% responded “Very important.”
- Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 63% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting — 76% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 39% responded “Every day.”
- Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 63% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 61% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 35% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Time Pressure — 42% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People — 51% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Physical Proximity — 60% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
- Responsible for Others' Health and Safety — 48% responded “High responsibility.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Conditions — 49% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 52% responded “More than half the time.”
- Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions — 61% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Frequency of Conflict Situations — 32% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Outdoors, Under Cover — 47% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Spend Time Standing — 54% responded “About half the time.”
- Wear Specialized Protective or Safety Equipment such as Breathing Apparatus, Safety Harness, Full Protection Suits, or Radiation Protection — 34% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 40% responded “Important.”
- Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 23% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 38% responded “Once a year or more but not every month.”
- Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings — 34% responded “Once a year or more but not every month.”
|Title||Job Zone Three: Medium Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.|
|Related Experience||Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.|
|Job Training||Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations usually involve using communication and organizational skills to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish goals. Examples include food service managers, electricians, agricultural technicians, legal secretaries, occupational therapy assistants, and medical assistants.|
|SVP Range||(6.0 to < 7.0)|
Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
|21||Some college, no degree|
Interest code: IRC
- Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
- Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
- Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- 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.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
- 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.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
- 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.
Wages & Employment Trends
Median wages data collected from Fire Inspectors and Investigators.
Employment data collected from Fire Inspectors and Investigators.
Industry data collected from Fire Inspectors and Investigators.
|Median wages (2014)||$26.99 hourly, $56,130 annual|
|Employment (2012)||12,000 employees|
|Projected growth (2012-2022)||Slower than average (3% to 7%)|
|Projected job openings (2012-2022)||4,400|
|Top industries (2012)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 wage data and 2012-2022 employment projections . "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2012-2022). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.
Job Openings on the Web
Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- Fire Inspectors and Investigators . Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.