The Day to Day Life and Responsibilities of a Fire Marshal
In the world of fire prevention, there are so many paths to take. Becoming a firefighter is a great way to help enforce fire safety, but it isn’t the only position out there. How else can you help to enforce fire codes, work with fire departments, and help your local community? One way to do that is by becoming a state fire marshal. We’ve all heard of fire marshals and the fire marshal office, but not everyone knows what it actually means to be one. If you’re thinking about ways to help mitigate fire incidents in your state or county, let’s talk about Fire Marshal responsibilities.
What is a Fire Marshal?
Whether you are closely in tune with the fire protection world or this is the first time you’ve thought about it, you know what a firefighter does. But what about all of the other ways that a person can be involved in their local fire department and local fire prevention services?
A fire marshal is another one of these figures in local fire department communities. A fire marshal is often an employee of the local government in some capacity. This could mean that they are part of the state, county, or provincial government, but this is not always true.
A fire marshal could possibly be an active-duty law enforcement officer and, oftentimes, experienced firefighters. A fire marshal may be authorized to carry a weapon, they may wear a badge or drive marked car
Truthfully, a fire marshal may be many things. It is largely dependent on their prior experience and the region where they work. However diverse they may be, there is an International Fire Marshal Association (IFMA) which seeks to link these individuals and pool they’re resources and collective knowledge.
A Fire Marshal’s Responsibilities
The definition of what a fire marshal specifically is can vary. We can get a better idea of what the job is when we look at a fire marshal’s responsibilities. So what exactly are those responsibilities? Again, this may vary, but here are some of the many things a fire marshal is responsible for.
The Most General Fire Marshal Responsibilities
In the most basic sense, we might think of a fire marshal as being a cross between law enforcement and fire protection. One of the main responsibilities of a fire marshal is to perform fire and arson investigations.
A fire marshal might also be a fire inspector, or they might work alongside one. A fire inspector is a person who makes sure that buildings follow relevant fire codes in case of an emergency. These buildings might be public ones like nursing homes or public education buildings, or they could be factories or office environments.
An inspector is responsible for making sure a building is prepared for an emergency situation. A fire marshal is responsible for finding out how and why things go wrong when they do. It is a very important part of the cycle of fire prevention and safety. The fire marshal’s investigations further inform builders, regulators, and occupants of how they can stay safer.
More Specific Fire Marshal Responsibilities
Fire marshals are authorized to do many different things depending on the local laws, and of course, according to their prior experience.
Fire marshals who are also employed in some capacity as a law enforcement officer may be able to make arrests pertaining to arson. These are the fire marshals we spoke of earlier who might wear a badge or carry a firearm.
Fire marshal responsibilities are clearly outlined by the Fire Protection and Prevention Act of 1974. This act sought to mitigate the tremendous amount of deaths caused by fires in America, citing 12,000 deaths and more than 300,000 injuries. Included in the Fire Protection and Prevention Act was the outlining of state officials who would oversee the dissemination of information and regulation of fire codes. This entity is what we now know as the fire marshal.
Here are just some of the fire marshal responsibilities outlined in the Fire Protection and Prevention Act:
- Monitor, review, and advise local agencies on fire safety procedures and services
- Supervising, advising, and assisting local agencies on fire protection services
- Educating the public on fire safety
- Promoting the safe practices and principles of fire protection services
- Investigating and reporting on fire incidents or explosions
- Enforcing the local fire codes and related regulations
- Using public forums like local meetings, newspaper articles, publications, and electronic media to promote public fire safety
- Arranging training and evaluation for people who work in fire protection service positions
- Keeping records of reported fires to correctly inform fire statistics
How to Become a Fire Marshal
The role of a fire marshal is one of responsibility. A fire marshal is responsible for upholding safety, upholding the law, and keeping their community running safely. If that sounds like a position you’d like to find yourself in, that’s great! Here’s how you can find yourself on the road to fire marshal responsibility.
Starting From the Ground Up
Wanting to become a fire marshal is an admirable aspiration. However, you don’t become a fire marshal overnight. You also don’t become a fire marshal without prior fire service experience.
If you want to become a fire marshal, one of the first things you should think about is becoming a firefighter. Most fire marshals are required to have previous fire protection experience. One of the most direct ways to gain this experience is to work for a few years as a firefighter.
If you’re wondering how you become a firefighter, here is a great resource to look at. One of the best ways to become a firefighter is to start volunteering at your local fire department. Not only are you going to gain the first-hand experience, but you’ll also gain valuable connections.
Knowing your local firefighters will make sure friendly faces are looking at your application. It also helps by letting you know when and where fire marshals are needed.
Secondary Fire Service Education
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many prospective Fire Marshals require secondary education. This could include formal fire science training, law enforcement training, emergency medical services training, or forensics. The National Fire Protection Agency also offers courses designed to help people pass their qualification or certification exams.
Most of the required training for fire marshals are required for fire inspectors and investigators too.
This training could include things like:
- Courses in fire prevention, structural building codes, and fire suppression techniques.
- Courses in operating alarm and reporting equipment
- And courses in forensic data recovery and burn patterns
There are plenty of opportunities for fire marshals to work with people in the field. However, much of the responsibilities of a fire marshal include reporting and legal work. Prospective fire marshals should be proficient in gathering and marking evidence, preparing testimony, and briefing the public on their findings.
If you do become a fire marshal, this will not be the end of your education. Your position as a fire marshal may be contingent on the continued education on the topic.
Working Your Way to Fire Marshal
As we stated previously, becoming a fire marshal is not an overnight process. It takes years of putting in work, training, and finding yourself in the right place at the right time. Of course, it’s impossible to know when and where that will be. The best way to ensure you know when and where these positions are open is to stay involved.
Working or volunteering with your local fire department will keep you in this loop of knowledge. The most important thing to do is to keep yourself ready. Stay up to date on the latest required training, continue to excel in your field, and continue to make connections in your local community. Some local fire departments even promote fire marshals directly from their own firefighters.
The Many Responsibilities in the Life of a Fire Marshal
Becoming a fire marshal is a road that requires dedication and persistence, like all positions in the fire safety industry. Becoming a fire marshal means taking even more responsibility under your belt.
Even beyond protecting people in your community from fire incidents, you are also helping the larger community. The reports and statistics generated by local fire marshals help us understand where and how we need more fire safety. It is a position that can be rewarding on a very profound level. Being a fire marshal means being responsible for not only the safety of your community but the safety of your country’s citizens.
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