A Guide To Fire Safety & Education


Thinking about working for the fire department as a firefighter? There are many avenues you could pursue beyond just entry-level firefighting. Learn more about some training and degree programs available in specialized fields including fire investigation, fire inspection, fire protection engineering, arson investigation, and fire engineering, highlighted below.

Fire Investigation Training & Degree Programs

Fire investigators are responsible for gathering physical evidence, interviewing witnesses, and tracing origins of fire and determining the causes for blazes. If you’re interested in closely examining past fires and investigating what led to them, you will benefit from obtaining fire investigation training and school. Most training in this avenue combine an in-class learning aspect with research and field work.

Education in fire investigation entails coursework in fire chemistry and physics, firefighting techniques, evidence gathering and preservation, emergency medical technician training, interrogation methods, arson detection, and legal and ethical issues, to name a few. Coursework will vary depending on the school and students’ career goals. For example, prospective fire investigators interested in forensic data recovery may take more classes related to case management, marking and transmitting evidence, and the like.

Fire investigators are expected to have at least some sort of post-secondary education. In fact, aspirants are usually expected to pass a physical, drug, and criminal background exam before employment. Most fire investigators start out as entry-level firefighters and work their way up to their position through years of experience and higher education.

Fire Inspection Training & Degree Programs

As a fire inspector, you’ll be responsible for working to prevent fires and save people from such dangerous situations. Additionally, you’ll be coming up with and reviewing plans for new buildings to make sure that they conform to regulations at the local, state, and national level. Some buildings may include offices, schools, hospitals, and industrial structures, for example. The main goal of a fire inspector is to halt deadly fires before they happen — or prevent flames.

Similar to fire investigators, fire inspectors usually start their careers at the entry-level firefighting role. With years of experience and postsecondary education, firefighters can move up the ranks into a fire inspector role. Formal fire science training with a fire inspection specialty can be obtained at an accredited four-year college. In addition to taking relevant fire science classes, students will also be required to complete general education and elective courses designed to develop strong communication and critical-thinking skills, both of which are extremely crucial in the workplace.

In order for fire inspectors to grow within their department, they will be expected to continue ongoing training. This is why it is essential to go back to school every few years to not only get information-refresh, but also to stay up-to-date on new findings and procedures.

Fire Protection Engineering Training & Degree Programs

Firefighters interested in the engineering aspect can look into fire protection engineering training and degree programs. Essentially, fire protection engineers are responsible for examining how fires start, concentrating on proper use and occupancy loading of buildings, and studying emergency evacuation plans and apparatus. These fire professionals usually work closely with architects and designers to evaluate new construction plans for new buildings, and modify the plans accordingly to minimize fire opportunities.

Fire protection engineers engage in fire suppression, work fire alarm systems, and design fire detection. On the job, they are expected to be able to design training manuals, conduct research, and deliver courses in technology related to the field. Fire protection engineers work for the local, state, and federal departments, and with the construction industry and insurance firms.

At the postsecondary education level, students in this field will study topics including:

Some useful skills of fire protection engineers include knowledge in technology, design, math, physics, public safety, chemistry, construction and buildings, and mechanical engineering. During school years, students will have the opportunity to conduct research and learn how to compile data, analyze findings with dedicated computer software, and ensure that buildings comply with safety regulations and codes.

According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, most fire protection engineers tend to be older and hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. Many pursue a Master’s in fire engineering as well, to remain competitive in the field and have more employment options.

Arson Investigation Training & Degree Programs

Arson investigators work to piece together the origins and causes of suspicious fires, while coordinating with personnel from the district attorney office, fire marshals, and law enforcement. Certification in this specialized field can be completed in less than a year. In that time, you’ll learn how to interview witnesses, conduct follow-up investigations, and prepare and deliver testimony in a court of law. Obtaining a degree in arson investigation can be completed by combining a high school diploma and volunteer fire department experience. This path can advance into forensics studies later on.

Coursework for to-be arson investigators is mostly theoretical; students will engage in practical applications of science in studying fire and explosive origins. Along the way, they also become familiar with using IT tools to put together data, develop case management skills, and preserve evidence.

Arson investigators must develop a sharp eye and be fully dedicated to finding missing links that will lead to the truth, while going through the legal system. Local government agencies are the biggest employers of arson investigators, along with insurance companies who need to know for certain if the fire was an accident or not. Your most important task as a prospective arson investigator will be gathering proof of willful incendiarism. This is an exciting field to go into, with job growth increasing by nine percent from now to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fire Engineering Training & Degree Programs

Those who enjoy preventing problems may be interested in pursuing fire engineering. Fire engineers help establish building codes and safety requirements, on top of evaluating structural design to prevent or suppress the chance of a fire. Your work in this field could save lives and prevent millions of dollars in structural and environmental damage.

Fire professionals who advance their training through this program will learn about new construction methods and materials that significantly reduce the possibility of a fire breaking out. Professional certification is awarded to those who have gained an advanced understanding in fire protection analysis, active and passive systems, fire dynamics, fire protection management, exit plans, and population control.

Students can focus on one of five specific fields under fire engineering as shown below: