25 Arson Investigator Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from an arson investigator, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Arson investigators are responsible for investigating fires to determine their origin and cause. They work with fire investigators, insurance companies, and law enforcement to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and write reports.

If you’re interested in becoming an arson investigator, you’ll need to have strong analytical and communication skills. You’ll also need to be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure.

An arson investigator interview is your chance to show that you have the skills and experience to do the job. During the interview, you’ll be asked questions about your experience, your education, and your skills. You’ll also be asked questions about your ability to handle stress, work independently, and think critically.

To help you prepare for your interview, we’ve compiled a list of sample arson investigator interview questions and answers.

Common Arson Investigator Interview Questions

1. Are you comfortable working in potentially dangerous situations?

As an arson investigator, you may be called to work in dangerous situations. Employers ask this question to make sure you are comfortable with the risk of working in these conditions. In your answer, explain that you understand the risks and have experience working in potentially dangerous situations. Explain how you plan to stay safe while on the job.

Example: “Yes, I am very comfortable working in potentially dangerous situations. Throughout my career as a police officer, I’ve been called to many crime scenes where there was potential for danger. I always take safety precautions when entering a situation like this. For example, if I’m investigating a fire at night, I will bring another person along with me. This way, we can keep each other safe and watch out for one another.”

2. What are some of the most important skills for an arson investigator?

Employers ask this question to make sure you have the skills necessary for the job. They want someone who is detail-oriented, organized and able to work independently. When answering this question, list some of the most important skills for an arson investigator. Explain why these are important in your answer.

Example: “The two most important skills for an arson investigator are attention to detail and organization. You need to be able to look at a scene and notice even the smallest details. This helps you find clues that can help solve the case. Organization is also very important because it allows you to keep track of all the information you collect during an investigation. It’s crucial to stay organized so you don’t lose any evidence.”

3. How would you gather evidence at a fire scene?

This question can help the interviewer assess your investigative skills and how you apply them to a job. Use examples from past experiences to highlight your ability to gather evidence, analyze it and use it to solve cases.

Example: “I would first make sure that I have all of my tools with me so I can document everything at the scene. Then, I would take photos of the entire area and any objects that may be relevant to the case. After taking these photos, I would collect samples of anything that looks suspicious or out of place, like charred debris or unusual chemicals. I would also interview witnesses and survivors to get their accounts of what happened.”

4. What is the most important piece of equipment for an arson investigator?

The interviewer may ask this question to see if you know the tools of your trade. They want to make sure that you have experience using the necessary equipment and understand how it can help you in your job. In your answer, explain what piece of equipment is most important for an arson investigator and why.

Example: “The most important piece of equipment for an arson investigator is a gas chromatograph. This tool allows me to test samples of evidence to determine whether they contain flammable liquids or gases. I use this information to determine whether a fire was started intentionally or by accident. It’s also helpful to have a camera with a macro lens so I can take detailed photos of any evidence.”

5. Provide an example of a time when you had to give a presentation about your findings. What made it successful?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your public speaking skills and how you present information. Use examples from previous work presentations or academic presentations that you gave in the past.

Example: “In my last position, I had to give a presentation to my team every week on our progress with cases. I used PowerPoint slides to display evidence we found at each scene and discussed what it meant for the case. My colleagues appreciated having access to all of the information I gathered during an investigation so they could understand the full picture. They also liked that I was able to provide them with tips on how to conduct their own investigations.”

6. If a fire started in a trash can and spread to the building, what is the most likely cause?

This question is a test of your investigative skills. Interviewers ask this to see if you can apply your knowledge and experience to solve problems. In your answer, explain the steps you would take to determine the cause of the fire.

Example: “If I found that a trash can started a fire, my first step would be to look for any flammable liquids or objects in the area. Trash cans are usually metal, so it’s unlikely they would start a fire on their own. If there were no other sources of ignition nearby, then I would consider the possibility of spontaneous combustion. This is when organic materials like paper spontaneously ignite without an external source.”

7. What would you do if a key witness refused to speak with you?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to work with others. In your answer, demonstrate that you can communicate effectively and respectfully with all types of people. Show the interviewer that you would try to understand their concerns and find a solution that works for everyone involved.

Example: “If I encountered a situation where a key witness refused to speak with me, I would first try to understand why they were hesitant to talk to me. If it was because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, I would reassure them that I am there to help and ensure their safety. If they still refuse to cooperate, I would explain to them that it is in their best interest to share information with me. I would also tell them that if they change their mind later, I will be happy to listen.”

8. How well do you know the NFPA 921, the standard for investigating fires?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes the 921 standard, which is a guide for investigating fires. The interviewer may ask this question to see how familiar you are with the NFPA’s standards and procedures. In your answer, try to show that you have some knowledge of the NFPA 921 standard by describing what it is and briefly explaining why it’s important.

Example: “I am very familiar with the NFPA 921 standard because I use it as a reference when conducting my investigations. This standard provides guidelines on how to conduct an investigation, including how to collect evidence and interview witnesses. It also outlines specific terminology used in arson investigations, such as accelerants and incendiary devices.”

9. Do you have experience using databases and other tools to organize large amounts of information?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your computer skills and how you use them in the workplace. If you have experience using databases, describe what kind of information you’ve organized with it. If you don’t have experience using a database, explain other ways you organize large amounts of data.

Example: “I have used a database system for my entire career as an arson investigator. I use the database to record all of the evidence I collect at a fire scene, including photos, notes and any samples I take from the scene. The database also allows me to keep track of which pieces of evidence I send to the lab for testing. This helps me stay organized and ensures that I don’t lose important pieces of evidence.”

10. When investigating a fire, what is the first thing you should do when arriving at the scene?

This question is an opportunity to show your interviewer that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in this role. Use examples from previous experiences where you were able to quickly assess a fire scene and determine what caused it.

Example: “When I arrive at a fire scene, my first priority is safety. I make sure everyone is out of harm’s way and then begin assessing the situation. I look for any clues or evidence that may help me understand how the fire started. In one instance, I was called to a house fire where the homeowner said they had been cooking when their stove caught on fire. However, after arriving at the scene, I noticed there was no food left on the stove and the burners were turned off. This led me to believe that the fire was not as accidental as the homeowner claimed.”

11. We want to improve our investigative process by adopting best practices from other departments. Who is your role model and why?

This question is a great way to learn more about the candidate’s experience and how they’ve grown professionally. It also allows you to see if they have any connections with other departments that could be beneficial for your department.

Example: “I admire my former partner, John Smith, because he was always willing to help me when I needed it. He would often give me advice on cases or even just talk through some of the challenges I was facing. He really helped me grow as an arson investigator and inspired me to become a mentor myself.”

12. Describe your process for interviewing a witness and getting them to open up.

Interviewing witnesses is an important part of the arson investigator’s job. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience conducting interviews and can do so effectively. In your answer, explain how you would approach a witness and get them to open up about what they saw. Explain that you would be empathetic and use active listening techniques to encourage them to talk.

Example: “I find it helpful to meet with witnesses one-on-one in a quiet place where we won’t be interrupted. I try to make the environment as comfortable as possible by smiling and making eye contact. Then, I start by asking them if they mind answering some questions. This helps put them at ease and lets them know I’m not there to judge them or interrogate them.

From there, I begin asking them questions about what they saw. I avoid leading questions and instead focus on getting them to tell me their story in their own words. I also use active listening techniques like repeating back what they said to show them I understand. This makes them feel more comfortable and encourages them to keep talking.”

13. What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their team. When answering, it’s important to highlight a skill or experience that makes you unique from other candidates. You may also want to mention something that is relevant to the job description.

Example: “I have five years of experience as an arson investigator, which is more than most people in my field. I am also highly motivated and committed to solving cases. In fact, I solved one case where another investigator was stumped for months. I used my skills to solve the case within two weeks.”

14. Which fire investigation television show do you most closely resemble?

This question is a way for the interviewer to get an idea of your personality and sense of humor. It’s important to be yourself, but it’s also important to show that you can take criticism and learn from it. If you’ve watched any fire investigation television shows before, think about which one best represents you as a person.

Example: “I would say I most closely resemble Jack Moore on ‘Criminal Minds.’ He’s very intelligent and has a great memory. He’s always calm under pressure and he’s able to solve cases quickly. I’m not quite as good at profiling people yet, but I’m working on it.”

15. What do you think is the most important aspect of fire prevention?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of fire prevention and how it can help keep people safe. Your answer should include a few tips for preventing fires in the home, such as keeping candles away from curtains or other flammable materials and making sure you have working smoke detectors.

Example: “I think one of the most important aspects of fire prevention is educating others about what they can do to prevent fires in their homes. I always make sure to give my friends and family advice on how to stay safe when using things like candles or space heaters. Another way I promote fire safety is by installing smoke alarms in any building that doesn’t already have them.”

16. How often do you update your knowledge of firefighting techniques and equipment?

This question can help the interviewer determine how committed you are to your career and whether you’re likely to stay in this role for a long time. Your answer should show that you have an interest in learning more about firefighting techniques and equipment, but it’s also important to mention that you’re willing to learn new things as they become available.

Example: “I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills as an arson investigator. I regularly attend seminars on current methods of investigation and subscribe to several online newsletters that provide tips and advice from other professionals. I’ve found these resources to be very helpful when I’m working on cases.”

17. There is a witness to a fire who refuses to speak with you. What is your strategy for getting them to talk?

Interviewers ask this question to see how you handle difficult situations. They want to know that you can be assertive and persuasive when needed, but also respectful of others’ rights. In your answer, show the interviewer that you will try to convince the witness by being friendly and polite while still getting what you need from them.

Example: “I would first introduce myself and my role as an arson investigator. I would then explain why it is important for me to speak with them about the fire. If they are not willing to talk, I would offer to meet somewhere in private where we could have a conversation without anyone else listening. I would make sure to keep the conversation brief so that they do not feel overwhelmed or pressured.”

18. How do you determine the origin and cause of a fire?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your investigative skills and ability to gather evidence. Use your answer to highlight your critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills.

Example: “I first start by examining the scene for any signs of an accelerant or other ignitable liquids that could have caused the fire. I also look for burn patterns on nearby objects to determine if they are consistent with a particular ignition source. If there is no sign of an accelerant, then I examine the area around the origin point for anything that might have started the fire, such as electrical wiring issues or improperly stored flammable materials. Once I’ve gathered all of my information, I use it to make a determination about the cause of the fire.”

19. Describe a time when you had to evaluate evidence from multiple sources and how did you come to your conclusions?

An interviewer may ask this question to learn more about your critical thinking skills and how you apply them in the workplace. Use examples from past experiences where you had to analyze multiple sources of evidence, such as witness statements, physical evidence or surveillance footage, and use these examples to explain how you used your critical thinking skills to come to a conclusion.

Example: “In my last role, I worked with a team of investigators who were looking into a fire that destroyed an abandoned building. We collected several pieces of evidence, including security camera footage, eyewitness accounts and photos of the scene. After reviewing all of our findings, we determined that the fire was intentionally set.”

20. What techniques have you used to investigate arson cases successfully?

This question can help the interviewer determine your experience and expertise as an arson investigator. Use examples from past cases to highlight your skills, knowledge and abilities in this role.

Example: “In my last position, I used several techniques to investigate arson cases successfully. One of these was using a fire investigation technique called ‘crisp burn.’ This method involves examining the burned area for signs of heat damage or discoloration. If there are no signs of heat damage, then it’s likely that the fire wasn’t started by an open flame. Another technique I used was collecting samples of debris at the scene. These samples helped me identify accelerants like gasoline or other flammable liquids.”

21. How would you handle a situation where the suspect refuses to cooperate with investigation?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to work with people. In your answer, demonstrate that you can communicate effectively and use your problem-solving skills to resolve the situation.

Example: “If a suspect refuses to cooperate with an investigation, I would first try to speak with them in person about their reasons for not cooperating. If they still refuse to cooperate, I would document their refusal and continue my investigation without their help. I would also make sure to note any suspicious behavior or actions they took during our conversation so that I could include it in my report.”

22. Are there any particular areas of expertise or certifications that are important for an arson investigator?

Employers may ask this question to make sure you have the necessary skills and qualifications for the role. They might also use it as an opportunity to share what certifications they look for in potential employees. When preparing your answer, think about which areas of expertise or certifications are most important to you. Consider researching any that you don’t already have so you can mention them to the employer if you decide to pursue them.

Example: “I believe a thorough understanding of fire science is essential for an arson investigator. I am currently enrolled in a certification program through the National Fire Academy. This will be my first certification, but I’m excited to learn more about fire science and apply those lessons to my work.”

23. Explain what methods you use to identify accelerants at a fire scene.

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the methods you use in your work. Use examples from past experiences to explain how you identify accelerants and what they are.

Example: “I have a list of common accelerants that I look for at fire scenes, such as gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, lighter fluid and paint thinner. When I arrive at a scene, I first take photos of the area and then collect samples of debris and burn patterns. I send these samples to an analyst who can test them for traces of accelerants. If we find evidence of accelerants, it helps us determine whether the fire was accidental or arson.”

24. Give us an example of a complex fire investigation case you worked on and how you solved it.

Interviewers ask this question to see how you apply your skills and experience to solve a problem. Use examples from your past that show the interviewer what you can do in a challenging situation.

Example: “In my last position, I worked on an arson case where a man set his house on fire while he was inside. The fire spread quickly and caught the surrounding houses on fire as well. We had to investigate who started the fire, whether it was accidental or intentional and if there were any other factors involved. It took us several days to gather all of the evidence we needed to determine the cause of the fire. In the end, we determined that the fire was caused by faulty wiring.”

25. How well do you understand the legal implications of identifying suspects in an arson case?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the legal system and how it applies to arson investigations. In your answer, try to demonstrate that you understand the importance of following proper procedures when conducting an investigation.

Example: “I have a lot of respect for the law and know that my job is to gather evidence and report my findings. I always follow protocol in order to ensure that I am not putting myself or others at risk by releasing information prematurely. If I suspect someone of committing arson, I will continue to investigate until I can provide enough evidence to support my claims.”


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