By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
“This has been a long process to get this approved and is how most counties do business,” said Gordon Pomeroy, chief of East Jefferson Fire-Rescue, or EJFR, after the Jefferson County commissioners approved a measure to designate the position Monday.
“We will designate one person as county fire marshal and name all the local chiefs as deputy fire marshal, which will give them a little more authority to make sure codes are enforced when they do their inspections.”
Pomeroy currently acts as the default fire marshal and delegates investigations on a case-by-case basis.
The resolution, approved Monday as part of the consent agenda, clears the way for EJFR to assume a greater role in conducting annual fire safety inspections in commercial buildings throughout the county.
The permanent fire marshal title will be part of a position to be left vacant by the retirement of Deputy Chief Bob Low.
Three people applied for that position but one withdrew, according to EFJR spokesman Bill Beezley, and the timing of the hire is not certain.
One of the applicants is internal while another is out of the area, Beezley said.
Under the new structure, the fire marshal will work closely with the Department of Community Development and its director, Carl Smith, who said that access to fire personnel will help him to make more accurate code violation determinations.
“Carl knows a lot about planning and code enforcement, but he doesn’t have the knowledge about fire inspections and investigations,” Pomeroy said.
“We can perform the inspections, and if there is a problem we aren’t able to solve, we can go to Carl, who has access to the prosecuting attorney for enforcement purposes.”
Pomeroy said the fire marshal will proactively inspect locations where people gather to detect any code violations before they become an issue.
One such effort was to inspect the kitchen duct systems in Port Townsend in 2013, eventually determining that all of them were compliant.
“We approved all the restaurants in Port Townsend, and they upgraded voluntarily; there was no hassle,” Pomeroy said.
Beezley said the new inspections will occur anywhere that people gather in large numbers “and work our way down,” he said.
“There can always be a hazard in places where a lot of people get together,” Beezley said. “Once we’re done, we’ll go back to the beginning. It’s a cycle that never ends.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsula