The world of public service can be full of unsung heroes and the Fire Marshal’s Office is brimming with success stories that have helped keep disaster from striking in our community.
How do they do it?
The Fire Marshal’s Office includes more than 100 employees with various responsibilities — from reviewing engineering plans to investigating fire and hazardous material scenes. Among its roster, the office features:
- Administrative and accounting professionals
- Fire inspectors
- Fire/hazmat investigators
- Uniformed firefighters of various ranks
- IT analysts
- Emergency planners
Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Barrero, Jr. describes the office as the “enforcement arm” of the Fire and Rescue Department. In fact, staff has reviewed approximately 11,000 fire protection plans in each of the last two years, which include plans for fire alarms, sprinkler systems, evacuation plans, fire lanes and more.
“We accomplish these core duties by conducting various types of inspections, witnessing testing of fire protection systems, performing engineering plans reviews, determining the origin and cause of fires and investigating releases of hazardous materials into the environment,” says Barrero.
There are two main divisions: fire prevention and fire and hazardous materials investigative services.
The cadre of officials that make up this team focus on a variety of important safety issues, including:
- Witness testing of new construction fire protection systems and re-tests of existing fire protection systems (the office has logged 18 “sprinkler saves” so far this year. A sprinkler save is counted when a building’s fire suppression system works the way it’s supposed to, thereby avoiding loss of life and additional property damage).
- Perform engineering plans review for conformance to building and fire prevention codes and standards.
- Issue various types of permits and conduct the inspections associated with those permits; here are some of the activities regulated by the fire prevention code requiring a permit:
Fire and hazardous materials investigative services is composed of staff who attend a law enforcement academy and are granted full police powers. This team:
- Investigates the origin and cause of fires and explosions.
- Looks into environmental crimes and releases of hazardous materials into the environment.
- Ensures the proper storage, use and handling of hazardous materials in the county, especially concerning use of explosives for blasting at construction sites.
Together, these teams promote safety from fire and other hazards, many times by preventing danger before it arises. Staff provides services 24/7/365; formal office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. However, many services (such as inspections, reviews, etc.) are provided on demand or at times convenient to customers, which requires many inspectors to work weekends and holidays.