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.
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.