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Fire Investigators

The Job

Fire investigators look for evidence pointing to the causes of fires. Once fires are extinguished, especially if they are of suspicious origin or cause death or injury, investigators look for evidence of arson. Investigators determine whether the fire was incendiary (arson) or accidental, and then try to figure out what caused it and how to prevent it. This information is very important to the fire-protection community. In cases of arson it is the investigator’s responsibility to collect information or evidence that can be used to prosecute the fire starter. For example, the investigator must determine what fuel was used to start the fire and in the process may discover devices that were also used. Investigators may submit reports to a district attorney, testify in court, or arrest suspected arsonists (if investigators have police authority). Investigators also gather information from accidental fires to determine where and how the fire started and how it spread. This is important information because it can be used to prevent similar fires in the future.

Fire investigators also interrogate witnesses, obtain statements and other necessary documentation, and preserve and examine physical and circumstantial evidence. They tour fire scenes and examine debris to collect evidence. They also send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or the presence of an accelerant. Investigators prepare comprehensive reports, provide detailed accounts of investigative procedures, and present findings. They apprehend and arrest arson suspects, as well as seek confinement and control of fire setters and juveniles who set fires. Investigators also prepare damage estimates for reporting and insurance purposes and compile statistics related to fires and investigations. They sometimes testify about their findings in court.