“The cause of the blaze is under investigation.”
By the time you hear that phrase in a news story about a fire, a special kind of detective has already been hard at work trying to crack the case.
Where we see burnt rubble, a fire investigator sees clues. Often before the smoke clears, this investigator is at the scene collecting and documenting evidence to determine the cause of the fire. This can involve carefully sifting through debris with specialized equipment and running lab tests on it. It can also mean interviewing witnesses and firefighters.
The investigator’s final report may tell the story of a preventable accident – or an intentional crime. It can lead to arrests and can be used in court.
And the report can give us all valuable insights into preventing future fires.
This job usually requires a state certification in “cause and origin” fire investigation, following years of experience and training in the firefighting field. A knowledge of building construction, chemistry and even physics can be helpful to a fire investigator – but a key job requirement is a passion for solving mysteries and saving lives.