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If you’re looking for an interesting career in either law enforcement or the fire service but can’t make up your mind which one you prefer, the job of a fire marshal may be exactly up your alley! In the US, a fire marshal is usually at a minimum responsible for enforcing state and local fire codes and investigating the origin and cause of fires but in most states fire marshals have many other varied responsibilities and authorities. Fire marshals may be attached to a fire department, and many are, but they can also be found working for building and various other departments where fire code compliance and fire safe engineering is mandatory.
In some states a fire marshal is a sworn law enforcement officer and has all the powers that come with being an armed police officer. This includes the power to make arrests, conduct searches and seize items of interest, carry firearms, serve summons, carry firearms and many other responsibilities. Quite often these fire marshals are ex police officers and also experienced fire fighters. In other states fire marshals are designated peace officers.
Whilst their responsibilities and their authority may vary between states, and even between counties, the list of responsibilities of a US fire marshal is likely to incorporate many of the following duties and authorities:
Investigative Powers And Responsibilities
- Inspect and investigate the trigger, origins and circumstances of fires, which may include investigating likely arson.
- Issue, obtain or execute search warrants.
- Detain and question suspects.
- Take possession of crucial evidence related to investigations as required in order to prevent such evidence from being destroyed, lost or tampered with.
- Organise for expert testing services to assess evidence and conditions involved in fire investigations if necessary.
- Make arrests in connection with fires.
- Work with insurance companies to investigate possible insurance fraud cases where arson is involved.
- Work with other authorities on suspected or potential terrorism threats.
- Serve as authoritative witnesses and testify in court.
- May carry out undercover and covert surveillance operations.
Implementation And Enforcement Of Building Codes and Laws
- Enforce state laws and ordinances related to fire prevention, fire protection and fire safety.
- Enforce state fire codes.
- Enforce building codes, particularly with respect to fire safety.
- Review building plans in relation to fire safety, issue building permits, inspect buildings for fire safety compliance and investigate violations of building and fire safety codes.
- Inspect and / or supervise building fire suppression systems such as sprinkler installations
- Inspect potentially hazardous facilities such as fuel-fired boiler systems, construction and mining sites and explosive storage depots.
Public Education And Training
- Run public education services around fire safety and code enforcement.
- Facilitate and organise fire fighting and fire prevention training, which may be in conjunction with local educational facilities.
- Handle complaints and queries from the public.
For those who want a diverse career that spans many different fields of knowledge and expertise, becoming a US fire marshal may be just what you’re looking for. Fire marshals work in many different areas and at many different levels. They’re involved in finding and piecing together bits of evidence from a fire scene and working in law enforcement, helping and educating members of the public about fires and fire safety, working with architects and engineers to help design safer buildings or attending court to provide expert evidence in arson cases. They are employed by government departments, municipal authorities, fire departments and other institutions tasked with the responsibility of overseeing fire safety, education, compliance, development, investigation and enforcement.