What is a Fire Watch: When Do You Need It, How to Conduct One, OSHA & NFPA Fire Watch Requirements, and More!

What is a Fire Watch: When Do You Need It, How to Conduct One, OSHA & NFPA Fire Watch Requirements

The NFPA may require building owners or property managers to perform a fire watch when your fire protection system has unexpectedly malfunctioned or is undergoing system maintenance to identify and control fire hazards. It helps protect your property, employees, tenants, and visitors to prevent damage to your business due to costly liabilities and financial losses. Know more about OSHA and NFPA fire watch procedures and requirements including OSHA’s fire watch hot work requirements here.

Scout Security has highly trained professional fire watch guards to help you prevent liabilities and hefty fines that might damage your business. We serve the Denver Metro and Colorado Springs areas. Book a consultation now!

What is a Fire Watch?

What is a Fire Watch? Who Can Conduct It? Why Is It Important?

What does it mean if a building is on fire watch?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines fire watch as the assignment of one or more people to an area to perform these main tasks:

  • Notify building occupants and/or the fire department of an emergency
  • Prevent fires from occurring
  • Extinguish small fires
  • Protect the public from fire/life safety dangers

In simple terms, a fire watch aims to detect and control fire hazards, activate alarms, notify your fire department, and assist in evacuation procedures. It allows your building to be occupied to prevent business disruptions when your fire alarm and/or fire sprinkler systems (water-based fire protection systems) become inoperable whether it is preplanned or not.

A fire watch is a temporary measure that the NFPA 101: Life Safety Code (LSC) requires to ensure continuous monitoring of the affected building.

Jump to: When is a Fire Watch Required?

Who Can Conduct a Fire Watch?

You should not give fire watch duties to just any employee. It is a crucial role that should be left to certified professionals who are trained in various fire prevention techniques and safety procedures including fire hazard recognition. They should have no other responsibilities during the fire watch.

The NFPA 25 and International Fire Code 2021 (IFC 2021) require that trained personnel conduct the fire watch. These trained personnel include fire watch security guards and certified firefighters who can perform their duties and responsibilities effectively. They should also be able to take necessary actions in case of emergencies.

Although building owners typically determine fire watch personnel, local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) may require other certification requirements.

Building owners and property managers should hire a licensed fire watch security company, like Scout Security, to conduct the fire watch. 

Fire watch officers should be familiar with:

  • The building’s emergency action plan including emergency recognition, reporting, and shutdown procedures
  • The building’s fire protection, alarm, and detection systems
  • Areas where fire hazards could arise
  • How to use portable fire extinguishing equipment

Also Read:

What Is the Purpose of a Fire Watch? Why Is It Important?

Assigning a fire watch is important for fire prevention and in ensuring public safety, especially in the hospitality industry and in commercial and industrial establishments.

Fire watches allow the recognition and prevention of fire hazards that could lead to property damage, fatalities, financial losses, violations, and even business shutdowns.

Also Read: Top 8 Fire Safety Tips & Best Practices for Property Owners & Managers

What Are the Requirements for a Fire Watch?

What Are the Requirements for a Fire Watch?

What are the NFPA guidelines for fire watch? Does OSHA require a fire watch?

NFPA fire watch requirements are found in:

In addition, OSHA has fire watch requirements for hot work specified in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Q which is the OSHA Standard for Welding, Cutting and Brazing.

Multiple authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) may also have additional requirements that apply to your situation that you need to follow aside from local fire codes and regulations. AHJs are often fire marshals, but they can also include building officials and health departments.

You need to check with your local AHJ for other requirements which are often stricter.

According to Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention & Control (DFPC), 

“Whenever there are multiple requirements to establish a Fire Watch the higher (most restrictive or specific) standard shall apply.” – Fire Watch & Fire Reporting, DFPC

When Is a Fire Watch Required & When Do You Need a Fire Watch Guard in Your Property?

When Is a Fire Watch Required & When Do You Need a Fire Watch Guard in Your Property?

So how do you know if you need fire watch services?

The NFPA requires building owners/property managers to protect building occupants when the NFPA 101 fire watch requirements are not met. Also, the AHJ or fire marshal can decide whether a fire watch is needed or not based on various factors such as:

  • Potential risks including uncontrolled fire
  • Types of hazards
  • The length of time your fire protection systems will be down
  • Extent of impairment

Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control Fire Watch Requirements

The state of Colorado requires building owners to conduct a fire watch if their fire protection system fails. The local AHJ may also decide the initiation of a fire watch when:

  • There’s an excessive number of accidental activations/nuisance alarms
  • During events
  • During special circumstances

IFC and NFPA Fire Watch Requirements: 4 Situations Where a Fire Watch Shall Be Instituted

Fire watch NFPA standards and the IFC 2021 specified the following four main situations where property managers are required to implement a fire watch:

#1. When Your Fire Protection System Has Been Impaired (Fire Sprinkler, Fire Alarm, And/Or Fire Suppression System)

The NFPA and Colorado state laws require buildings that have a fire sprinkler and/or fire alarm systems to initiate a fire watch when the system/s will be down for more than 4 hours during a 24-hour period (cumulative). For water-based fire protection systems such as fire sprinkler systems, a fire watch may be required if the system is impaired for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period.

Whether the system will be out of service due to scheduled maintenance or unexpected damage, a fire watch must be initiated.

Examples of Impairments
  • Ruptured or frozen pipes
  • Preplanned testing, repair, or maintenance activities
  • Water supply interruptions
  • Equipment failure

NOTE: The NFPA did not mention the extent of fire protection system impairment in which a fire watch must be instituted.

However, you should conduct a fire watch if your fire protection system or any of its components is inoperable. These include:

  • Sprinkler systems
  • Water spray systems
  • Water mist systems
  • Foam-water systems
  • Standpipe systems
  • Underground fire service mains
  • Water storage tanks
  • Fire hose systems
  • Fire pumps
  • Fire service control valves

Also Read: Things Every Property Manager Should Know About Fire Sprinkler Systems In Safeguarding Their Properties Systems

#2. During Hot Work Operations

A fire watch is required for any hot work activities in a building where flame or spark-producing devices, such as a torch, are used. These are common in construction sites.

NFPA’s Definition of Hot Work

The NFPA defined hot work as:

  • Welding and associated processes such as arc welding, arc cutting, oxygen cutting, thermal spraying, brazing, open-flame soldering, and oxy-fuel gas welding
  • Activities involving heat, spark production, and flame
  • Works involving welding, burning, or similar operations that can initiate fires or explosions

OSHA Hot Work Fire Watch Requirements: Standards for Welding, Cutting, and Brazing

According to the OSHA Standards for Welding, Cutting, and Brazing, fire watchers are required when cutting or welding is performed in areas where other than a minor fire might develop. A fire watch is also required in conditions where combustible materials within a 35-foot radius could be ignited. Specific conditions can be found in section 1910.252(a)(2)(iii)(A) of the standard.

#3. During Building Demolitions & Constructions

A fire watch is required during hazardous building construction and demolition activities such as hot work or temporary heating. A fire watch may also be required during nonworking hours as per Chapter 33 of IFC 2021 (Fire Safety During Construction and Demolition) for:

  • New construction that exceeds 40 feet in height above the lowest adjacent grade at any point along the building parameter
  • New multistory construction with an aggregate area exceeding 20,000 square feet per story

#4. During Events Where There Are Dense Crowds

The IFC set special requirements for public safety under Chapter 4 (Emergency Planning and Preparedness). One or more fire watch guards shall be provided to ensure public safety in places of assembly including other places where people congregate.

Fire Watch Procedures: What Should You Do During a Fire Watch?

Fire Watch Procedures: What Should You Do During a Fire Watch?

A well-organized fire watch is crucial in ensuring that any potential fire hazards are avoided before they can result in catastrophic damage to your business. Take note that fire watch procedures will depend on your building’s specific needs. These include your building’s size and occupants as well as the reason for the fire watch (e.g. construction activities).

What Is the Procedure for a Fire Watch?

A fire watch involves a continuous patrol of the affected building to identify and monitor fire hazards until fire protection systems are back to normal operations.

The NFPA 101 LSC requires property owners to notify the AHJ (fire marshal) in instances when the LSC is not met. That is, when your fire protection system is impaired, whether it is planned or unplanned. This is followed by the building being evacuated or a fire watch being initiated.

In addition, The NFPA LSC also required fire watch staffing beyond normal operation levels. Fire watch guards should be prepared to deal with emergency situations which includes contacting the local fire department and extinguishing small fires.

NOTE: Specific requirements for effectively responding to fire sprinkler system impairments can be found in Chapter 15 of the NFPA 25 Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems.

Fire Watch Duties and Responsibilities

Fire watch security guards are responsible for identifying, monitoring, preventing, and reporting fire hazards as well as raising emergency alarms.

Among the duties and responsibilities of a fire watch guard include the following:

  • Remaining at the site until the fire watch is terminated
  • Continuously patrolling affected areas including hot work and unoccupied areas (e.g. storage rooms, attics, crawl spaces)
  • Looking for signs of fire, smoke, and other abnormal conditions as well as monitoring identified fire hazards
  • Checking for potential sources of fire ignition such as improperly stored flammables
  • Documenting fire watch rounds, emergencies, and other fire watch activities (a Fire Watch Log must be used)
  • Knowing where manual fire protection equipment and fire alarm stations are located
  • Making sure that alarm systems and fire extinguishers are fully operational and readily available
  • Ensuring that fire exits and escapes including emergency pathways are unobstructed
  • Sounding the alarm in case of the occurrence of fire to initiate an emergency response
  • Contacting necessary authorities including the fire department, alerting occupants, and assisting in evacuation procedures in case of emergencies
  • Operating fire extinguishers, hose carts, and hydrants as a first response to fire hazards

Chapter 35 of the IFC (Welding & Other Hot Work) and OSHA Standards for Welding, Cutting and, Brazing require that fire watchers of a hot work shall have fire extinguishing equipment readily available and be trained in its use.

NOTE: The sole duty of the staff conducting the fire watch should be no other than patrolling the affected area to watch for potential fire hazards in addition to the ones mentioned above. They should not have any other responsibilities during the duration of the fire watch. In addition, fire watch officers should only extinguish fires within the capacity of the available equipment.

Also Read: 6 Things Landlords Should Do After a Fire in a Rental Property

When Should a Fire Watch Be Terminated?

Colorado’s DFPC placed the responsibility to terminate a fire watch on the property owner or administrator. Also, fire watch termination conditions depend on the purpose of the fire watch:

  1. Fire watch for fire protection system impairments will end after the system has been restored
  2. Fire watch for events where there are large crowds will end after the event or circumstance has ended

For hot work fire watch termination requirements, refer to the following sections.

How Long Is a Fire Watch Required After Hot Work?

For construction and hot work activities, fires can happen after the activities have been completed due to smoldering fires. Thus, the NFPA, OSHA, and IFC require a fire watch to be maintained for at least half an hour or more after the work is done:

Upon termination, The DFPC also required building owners to:

  • Report the end of the fire watch to the DFPC by submitting a new online reporting form
  • Notify the local Fire Department and the monitoring company
  • Submit a copy of the fire watch log

Also Read: How Much Does A Fire Watch Cost?


What are the OSHA fire watch requirements?

The OSHA Standard for Welding, Cutting, and Brazing requires the deployment of fire watchers when cutting or welding activities are performed in areas where a fire might develop. Other specific conditions are when combustible materials are present within a 35-foot radius or farther but could be easily ignited.

What are the NFPA requirements for a fire watch?

THE NFPA requires a fire watch if your fire sprinkler and/or fire alarm systems will be impaired for over 4 hours within a 24-hour period whether it is preplanned or not. Hot work activities also require a fire watch where the fire watch personnel must remain on site for at least 60 minutes after the completion of the hot work to monitor smoldering fires.

What certification do you need to Firewatch?

Fire watch guards need to be trained in fire safety procedures and prevention techniques and certified to be a fire watcher. The fire watch training should include fire hazard recognition, identification, prevention, and reporting including emergency response procedures.

When should a fire watch be assigned? What triggers a fire watch?

The NFPA, OSHA, and IFC have set requirements for fire watch initiation. The four main ones are:
(1) When your fire protection system will be down for more than 4 hours (cumulative) within a 24-hour period
(2) During hot work operations (e.g. welding, cutting, brazing, burning, etc.)
(3) During hazardous building constructions and demolitions 
(4) During special events where there will be dense crowds


Maximizing security in your property during a fire protection system malfunction is important to ensure the safety of your customers, employees, and visitors. Aside from protecting your company’s overall image, you will save yourself from costly fines, lawsuits, liabilities, and other catastrophic damages. Thus, following local, state, and federal fire watch laws is crucial in keeping your business running.

Scout Security offers short-term and long-term fire watch security services in Colorado. We have highly trained and certified fire watch guards to help you comply with local and state regulations as well as avoid business disruptions. Contact us now!

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