Fire marshal relocating operation New Metro Region office in Westminster

August 04, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office will relocate one of its regional operations to Westminster tomorrow as part of a reorganization.

Bob Thomas, deputy chief fire marshal, will manage the more centrally located office at 1004 Littlestown Pike, near Carroll County Airport.

Previously in Ellicott City, the Metro Region office will include Frederick, Carroll, Howard and western Baltimore counties.

Thomas, who doubles as director of public affairs for the state fire marshal, said the reorganization will deploy resources and personnel better.

The state fire marshal's office has its headquarters in Towson and other regional offices in Hagerstown, Bel Air, Prince Frederick and Easton. Each regional office has satellite offices.

"Carroll County is in the busiest region in the state in terms of fire-code enforcement and new home and building inspections," Thomas said. "It's also one of the busiest areas for investigations of fire and explosive incidents.

"Educating the public and even state legislators about who we are and what the state fire marshal's office does is a constant job," he said.

Thomas said the reorganization will allow the bomb squad unit to become a specialized division under Deputy Chief Warren D. Gott, previous commander of the Metro Region.

The unit, based in Towson, has 12 members and handles more than 400 calls a year, Thomas said.

The bomb squad unit licenses those who manufacture, distribute and use explosives and those who hold fireworks displays, Thomas said.

"A chief goal of state Fire Marshal Rocco Gabriele is to expand the number of highly trained bomb technicians," Thomas said.

"The 12 technicians currently in that unit really give state taxpayers their money's worth."

In his new post, Thomas, who was appointed to the state fire marshal's office in 1978, will work closely with the Metro Region's seven employees, visit fire scenes and follow up investigations involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Except for brief stints in Harford and Howard counties, Thomas has worked out of the fire marshal's Towson headquarters since 1984. He will continue to resolve issues on fire-code enforcement among municipalities, counties and private builders.

He also will keep abreast of state and federal legislation involving fire service and prevention.

He will continue developing a statewide data collecting system that he began in 1990.

"It's a monumental task," he said. "The new system will collect data more efficiently and effectively from all fire and medical calls for service, enabling us to turn around an analysis of what are the fire problems in a particular area."

After analyzing data in an urban area, for example, fire officials may find the biggest problem is kitchen fires; in a more rural area, such as Carroll County, arson or juvenile fire-setting may be the biggest problem, he said.

Such analysis will help fire officials develop educational programs to combat the principal problems in a particular area, he said.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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