State fire marshal's office hires staff for county safety inspections

Agency resumes checking on commercial buildings

Carroll County

May 14, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

After nearly seven years, the state fire marshal's office has resumed its role of providing fire safety inspections at new commercial buildings and reinspections of older ones in Carroll County with the hiring of new personnel this spring.

Two civilian inspectors, John Wagner and Brian Quick, will be in charge of fire safety inspections at commercial buildings.

Wagner will concentrate on new development, and Quick is assigned to work on buildings that were previously inspected by the county.

Wagner and Quick started the inspections last month.

What Wagner is doing "hasn't been done because we never had dedicated inspectors who didn't also do fire investigations," said Allen Gosnell, deputy chief state fire marshal of the Metro Regional Office in Sykesville. "For seven years, it's been neglected."

Since 1998, county workers employed by the Bureau of Permits and Inspections have been inspecting new commercial buildings because the fire marshal's budget limited the staff assigned specifically to fire safety inspections.

"We picked up the slack and did it, and now that they've hired two new inspectors, the fire marshals will pick it up," said Michael Maring, chief of the county inspections bureau. "We've adopted the same fire codes and have the same tools to inspect as they did."

This spring, Gosnell was able to reassign Wagner, who had been conducting fire safety inspections in Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties for two years, and hire Quick.

"Now I have the resources to address the fire inspection safety problem in Carroll County," Gosnell said.

Specialists

He said the fire marshal's office kept up with licensing inspections, but that fire marshals can now concentrate on fire investigations and leave the inspections to specialists.

Gosnell estimates that Wagner and Quick can conduct 75 to 100 inspections a month. That number includes multiple inspections of the same building.

The inspectors will look at anything commercial that requires an occupancy permit, including office buildings, stores and medical facilities. They will check older buildings through random inspections and will focus on different categories of buildings each month: hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, apartments, stores and offices.

"We'll try to do as many of those that month that we can fit in," Wagner said.

The inspectors will work with the Carroll Office of Permits and Inspections to provide fire safety inspections to most for new commercial buildings in the county. The inspections do not include single-family homes.

Inspections

Inspections typically include emergency lighting, exit signs, clear and unobstructed exit ways, storage areas, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers and extension cords.

Wagner said a checklist of code requirements is tailored for each type of new building. Unless a building passes, it does not receive an occupancy permit.

There are no monetary penalties, said Wagner, but if the developers or owners fail to correct the problems, the inspectors can initiate court proceedings. Developers and owners usually work with the fire marshal's office, he said.

"This is going to increase the overall safety of all buildings in the county," Wagner said.

He and Quick will work out of the Sykesville office, which oversees fire investigations in Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties.

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