5 common duties of arson and fire investigators

Responsibilities of Arson and Fire Investigators

  • Manage Internal Investigation Processes
  • Manage Internal Administrative Processes
  • Investigate Fire Scenes
  • Interact With Courts
  • Engage in Ongoing Educational Efforts

One exciting career path taken by some with a criminal justice degree today is that of the arson and fire investigator. In this line of work, there is a notable variety of daily duties to fulfill, many of which that have a strong impact on the lives of others and public justice. What are some of the chief responsibilities in this role? The following five duty areas encompass most of the vital responsibilities solely left to this professional's expertise.

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1. Manage Internal Investigation Processes

When fires occur, in addition to work that sees the investigator working in the field, there is also an associated investigative process that must take place away from the site. This is often the time when evidence and other factors are investigated further at a central office or laboratory. While there are many components and investigative tactics here, maintaining proper "chain of custody," or the preservation of evidence sanctity and integrity throughout its use and movements, is paramount.

2. Manage Internal Administrative Processes

Correlated with many of the above-mentioned, internal investigative processes are often many administrative elements as well. These elements include the preparation, review, and submission of reports, the process of issuing subpoenas and seeking warrants, the documentation of time spent and resources used while on the job, and plenty more. Clarity and accuracy are also very important to this area of the job.

3. Investigate Fire Scenes

On-site fire scene investigation is likely the most publicly recognized component to the regular duty list of fire investigators. In this undeniably important capacity of the job, the investigator must respond to fires and then investigate them with the utmost diligence and methodical manner possible. The National Institute of Justice provides an industry-directing guide on this on-site investigative process, which, broken down into functional areas of investigation, consists of five crucial steps.

4. Interact With Courts

Court interaction is yet another more widely recognized function in the job of the fire investigator. In this role, the fire investigator works with the criminal court system to see-through and ultimately draw accurate legal conclusions to fires. As mentioned above, part of this area of the job consists of seeking warrants from judges as well as subpoenaing witnesses and possible suspects for testimony. Additionally, the investigator is sometimes required to physically attend and engage in associated court hearings as they take place.

5. Engage in Ongoing Educational Efforts

Finally, engagement in ongoing educational efforts rounds out the chief duty list of the typical fire investigator. While fire science and advances in related technology continue to evolve and grow, an effective investigator must also strive to stay current with that ever-changing field. Aside from self-educating efforts, those in this position are also often expected to help to educate the public in various ways. Special event interactions and more formal class-type events are typical methods used in that public outreach goal.

In the wide world of criminal justice, fire investigation is a unique and often very exciting career path. Lives and facts are affected forever by this important truth-seeking profession. For those considering or already in receipt of a criminal justice degree today, the job of the arson and fire investigator is a great way with which to put that degree to use.