Can anyone explain to me the process of becoming a fire/arson investigator? I have been in the fire service for a few years but have never had any information explained to me. How would a person become certified and any other information that would help start a career as an investigator. I have also heard of investigators basically working as a private investigator for insurance companies. Is this a possibility? Any info would be helpeful. Thanks
First of all, when you speak about certification, there is no one body that issues a certification. There are a few different programs.
The International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) has a Certified Fire Investigator program that is accredited by the Professional Qualifications Board to the Standard of NFPA 1033. This is a rigorous certification process that is designed for highly experienced investigators. Complete information on the IAAI program can be found here: http://www.firearson.com/secure/reve...JAN%202009.doc.
The National Association of Fire Investigators offers their Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator program. This program is offered only to NAFI members and would normally require a combination of experience and attendance at one of their training programs. Complete information on the NAFI program can be found here: http://www.nafi.org/cfei.htm.
You also need to remember that there are a myriad of state certification programs. You would have to check with your state fire training agency to find out the requirements (if any) for your state.
Most insurance companies conduct in-depth investigations into their major fire losses (and some not-so-major). While a very few insurance cos. employ their own investigators, most use private companies. You need to realize that, because of the specialized product that these companies offer, as well as the complex needs of insurance companies and similar type organizations, they usually only employ experienced and/or certified fire investigators. You can find a listing of some of these companies here: http://www.firearson.com/links/viewl...nksectionid=23
I am a principal member of the Technical Committee for NFPA 1033, as well as a member of the IAAI CFI Committee. If you have any more questions, post them here for the group and I will do my best to answer them.
Thank you. That is some good information. I guess my next question would be on career advice. The only experience I have is from civilian firefighting and currently military firefighting. What do I need to do to take steps foward to getting an entry level job as a investigator? My goal in this is to try to recieve an ATF job.
ATF has their own certification program. Its a two year program. You would need to be hired and work as an agent first. Then submit an internal application for the CFI program. To apply at ATF you need a college degree (BA in criminal justice helps). You need to be younger than 37 at the time they hire you.
Originally Posted by Pickhead84
Even more great information. Thank you. I believe all my questions are answered. Thanks for all the help.
This is a difficult question to answer, and I am asked about it frequently. The first step that I would advise you to take is to join professional organizations for fire investigators like the IAAI or NAFI. This will allow you to keep up on the current events in the field, attend quality relevant training and to begin to develop a network of fire investigators who may be able to help you along the way.
Originally Posted by Pickhead84
The second thing I would do is lay a foundation for your future career through education and training. You can start at www.cfitrainer.net. This is a totally FREE training website offering high quality online training, sponsored by the IAAI. You do not need to be a member to sign up.
Next, I would look around my local area and find out who those folks are that are responsible for fire investigations. It may be someone within your FD, it may be a fire investigation task force, it may be some other law enforcement agency. I would talk to them and see if there is any room for you to observe and possibly help out. Even if it is for free. This will be thr beginning of your experience.
Next, I would give serious consideration to heading to college. But listen to me closely. Seriously consider the major of Fire Protection Engineering. There are online programs for this major at schools like Eastern Kentucky U, Worcester Polyechnic U and U of Md. FPE is a practical application of fire protection technology and basic engineering principles. It will far better prepare you for a career than a Fire Science Degree.
This may seem like a lot of work. The problem is that the field of fire investigation is changing (for the better) to more of an engineering discipline and less of a technical discipline. But it can be an extremely lucrative career.
As far as the ATF, this is a federal law enforcement agency with alot of responsibilities aside from fire investigation. My sources tell me that they are not actively recruiting Spec. Agents at this time. But, if you do not have a college degree now, that is good news for you. Get the degree and then apply. The ATF website is www.atf.gov.
One last thing. When you are in school, the ATF often offers intern positions with their agency. This would be a great way to get experience.
Some very good information from George and others as well.
I just completed the ATF basic explosives investigation class in December. Great class, learned a lot, both in the classroom and out. ;)
In talking to the agents involved that were teaching the class, all Federal agencies are on a hiring freeze until July 1, 2009 due to budget problems. One student was like you, very interested in starting a career with the ATF and I happened to be with them "debriefing" (:D) after class one evening.
Military experience is preferred.
Law Enforcement experience is preferred.
Must have at least a BA degree, or equivalent to be hired.
No criminal record at all.
You apply, go through the application process, very in depth, and if hired you go to their training academy.
After you graduate from the academy, you will be assigned to an office. This is usually with a field office someplace starting out chasing smugglers and working with the IRS agents chasing tax evaders. You will not have a choice on where you go, they will put you where they need someone. They might give a choice between two or three offices if you are lucky. Your performance in the academy might give you preference of what office you are assigned to. Once you are in and working, you have to apply to specific job duties and titles like arson/explosives investigation. They train certain agents to "specialize" in an area but you have to apply to that area there has to be an "opening" in that area. All of the agents who investigate arson/explosives do regular rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan with the EOD military groups as well. This particular agent just completed his 8th rotation. It usually is reserved for the more "experienced" agents as well. You gain experience either prior to coming to the ATF or while being assigned as Special Agent in the field.
The biggest thing I can tell you is EDUCATION! Can't get enough of that. Balance that out with some part time experience someplace and you will be marketable anywhere. If you really want it, you will do it. Check the ATF website too.
If I'm not mistaken, their academy is loooooooonnnnnggggg. Something like 20weeks.
Originally Posted by Dickey
I;m not sure about that Iraq thing. Some of the ATF FI I know have never been over there.
Agents volunteer to go Iraq....very very good money. Lots of special money. Many agents who want to go are turned down because their supervisors will not release them to go.
Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
New agents go through general service courses taught by Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Brunswick GA. This is before they start the ATF portion of their training. The ATF academy is also located at FLETC Brunswick GA. An it is about 20 weeks. Its broken down into Guns, Explosives and Fire investigations. The fire portion is basic knowledge. It is designed to give you basic knowledge needed to work effectively with a National Response Team callout for a major fire loss.