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What does a Fire Marshal do?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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A fire marshal is a government official who creates and enforces fire safety laws within a set geographic region. He or she personally inspects buildings and imposes fines for violations. A professional also organizes investigations in the case of fire-related crimes and accidents and provides personal assistance in emergency situations. In most countries, fire marshals must complete extensive training courses and pass licensing examinations before they can work independently.

Fire marshals are responsible for ensuring that businesses, schools, factories, and hospitals comply with fire codes. They perform regular inspections of such facilities, checking for violations or potentially hazardous situations. During an inspection, a fire marshal notes the condition of sprinklers, alarms, and fire extinguishers, and emergency elevator controls. If he or she finds a problem, such as blocked fire exit, the marshal can issue a warning or fine and explain to the building owner how to remedy the situation. In many regions, new homes and apartment buildings must also pass fire inspections before they can be inhabited.

When a suspicious fire occurs, the marshal and his or her team of deputies visits the scene to investigate possible causes. The marshal might look for evidence of arson, such as leftover matches or broken locks that suggest forced entry. If a fire is suspected to be an accident, the marshal may check for faulty heaters and gas leaks. The marshal documents investigative findings and he or she may be asked to provide expert witness testimony in court.

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Many fire marshals are also involved in fire prevention efforts. It is common for professionals to create educational pamphlets, organize seminars, and speak to schoolchildren about fire danger. Marshals are frequently involved in the creation of new laws and policies regarding fire prevention in forests as well as urban environments.

A person who wants to become a fire marshal usually needs to hold a high school diploma and participate in a specialized training program. Some regions require prospective fire marshals to complete full police and firefighter training before they can work in the field. Upon the completion of training, an individual can take a written examination that tests his or her knowledge of local fire codes, standard safety procedures, and common fire marshal duties. Successful trainees usually begin their careers as deputy fire marshals, receiving guidance and on-the-job instruction from supervising marshals. Depending on the region in which a deputy works, he or she may need to work for several years and pass additional examinations before advancing to the ranks of fire marshal.

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anon345905
Post 7

I am concerned about the maximum occupancy in my classroom. Posted on the wall was maximum 20. My administration said that only referred to the room when it was a special ed room. What bunk! What can I do? There will be 24 in the room.

Sinbad
Post 6

@Tomislav - I do not know if they look at every school, but they look at our school every year as well, making sure that we are following fire code and safety.

But I think they look at my school because we are notorious for fire code violations (not because we are trying to endanger our students but because we have so much equipment for our students because it is a school for many kids with significant medical needs).

One infamous violation we had was having student's extra equipment in the hallway (walkers, standers, etc.). We had it out there because we felt having so much equipment in the classroom made it unsafe for students, because it was crowded

and it is difficult for our students to get around.

But luckily, because we are not fire marshals we were not thinking about how unsafe it could be in a fire for the equipment to be taking up part of the hallway!

So now we have found new ways to quickly store the equipment while keeping our hallways clear and in line with the state fire marshal's wishes!

Tomislav
Post 5

We have a fire marshal that checks our school every year to make sure we are following fire code. There are many things that he has to look at, so I think @cardsfan27 was right when they imagined it would be a tedious process to become a fire marshal.

The fire marshal in training would have to learn all the details of the fire codes and then be able to apply it to each individual building.

I would love to know if they have to look at every school building to see if they are up to fire code, because they check my school building it seems every year, but that seems awfully time taxing to check every school, every year.

kentuckycat
Post 4

@TreeMan - You are absolutely correct in your assessment of fire marshals. Not only are they important in preventing fires by making sure that property owners have their buildings up to code, but they are important in proving cases of arson as well as fraud.

In order to make accusations such as arson or fraud the fire marshal has to have evidence in order to do so. A fire that happened under mysterious circumstances that may be a case of fraud has to be proven in the court of law, and the fire marshal must be able to show that it was actually fraud and not an accident. This has to be incredibly difficult considering that he or she has to be able to look at burnt up evidence and sift through charred remains of the structure, as well as provide evidence of dishonesty and foul play involved.

titans62
Post 3

@cardsfan27 - I have always wondered how difficult it is for someone to investigate a fire. Say there was fire that happened under suspicious circumstances the fire marshal has to prove that it was arson and be able to find evidence to provide such.

Odds are a smart arsonist would try to hide the cause of the fires and make it appear to be an accident and that is why the fire marshal has to have extensive training in order to hold the position they do.

cardsfan27
Post 2

I do not know exactly what someone has to do in regards to fire marshal training but I can imagine that it is a very tedious enterprise. Considering that a fire marshal is expected to investigate the causes of fires they must be very well trained for numerous reasons.

One reason that I can think of is that if a house were to burn down and they had to find the cause of the fire the fire marshal would have to sift through he rubble and burned up house in order to find the exact cause. I cannot imagine that this is at all easy, but it is necessary in any fire marshal inspection and requires someone with supreme expert knowledge in their field.

TreeMan
Post 1

The fire marshal is a very important individual in his or her field of work. I live in a town that has many old buildings and the fire marshal consistently has to check these buildings to make sure that they are up to code and do not present a certain fire hazard.

The marshal has even recommended condemning certain buildings in regards to public safety. Although this is a job that is fairly specific, and really does not have to deal with many fires, if they work in a rural area, the fire marshal is important in keeping building owners in line and making sure that the safest possible conditions are created in order for there not to be a fire.

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