Fire inspectors fight fires by trying to keep them from starting.
As part of a department's fire prevention division, inspectors examine commercial buildings for compliance with fire codes, looking for conditions that might cause a fire. They may even test the fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. Developers often call on them to check and approve plans for new structures.
Fire inspectors communicate what they know about preventing fires to the public. They often speak to schools or organizations about fire safety.
Many inspectors are also fire investigators, sifting through ashes and debris to find the cause and origin of a blaze. Their conclusions can point to a tragic accident or the need for a criminal investigation.
Firefighting occupations are municipal jobs obtained through written exams, instruction at a training center or academy, or a departmental apprenticeship program. Promotions are based on seniority and examinations.
Despite the irregular hours and dangers in firefighting, competition for available openings is expected to stay quite strong. People are attracted to the field because a high school diploma is generally adequate for entry-level positions, a pension is guaranteed at retirement after 20 years of service and because few jobs demand as much courage -- or command as much respect.