Inspecting the fire inspector

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Editor’s Note: Community Spotlight is a Q & A feature on a member of the community that appears once a month in the CK Reporter. To nominate someone who lives or works in the CK area, call (360) 308-9161 or e-mail All submitted nominations are drawn at random.

Roger Nordlander knows the ins and outs of all 1,500 businesses in Central Kitsap. Literally, he knows all of the entrances, exits, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms inside the buildings.

Nordlander has been a fire inspector with Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) for seven years. The retired sailor and former volunteer firefighter works hard to ensure all businesses and even residential homes are up-to-speed with the current fire regulations.

The fire inspector recently invited us into his office at the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue headquarters in Silverdale to chat about his family life, Navy career and work as a fire inspector.

Question: How did you become a fire inspector?

Answer: I was working as the fire alarm division manager at Ahearn Electric and the owner, Rick Lambert, told me about the fire inspector job.

Q: What type of training do you have to go through to become a fire inspector?

A: There’s a variety of certifications that are required. Within a year of taking a job you’re required to have your Fire Inspector I certification ... I have a Fire Inspector II certification, a commercial inspector ... and I’ve continued on with other certifications. It’s basically, ‘here’s this book, read it.’

Q: Family?

A: I’m married with five kids and five grandkids.

Q: How long have you lived in Kitsap County?

A: I’m retired Navy, so I was last stationed here in 1991 and I stayed here. I was assigned to the USS California.

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Portland.

Q: What did you do in the Navy?

A: I was an electronics technician. I retired as a chief warrant officer 3.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Kitsap County?

A: Just the beauty. It’s got to be the beauty of the area. You wake up and drive to work and look over one side and there’s snow-capped mountains. After being around the world in the Navy, this is just one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

A: One of the things I love doing is singing in the praise team down at church. I attend Living Hope Community Baptist Church (in Port Orchard).

Q: How long have you been singing at church?

A: In this church, probably about three years. It’s not the first church I’ve been singing in. It’s always been a hobby I’ve enjoyed.

Q: What do you like the most about your job? The least?

A: The most — the variety and interaction with the public. Every business you inspect, there’s different people, different businesses, different opportunities to educate the business owners on fire safety. No two businesses you go to are going to be the same. The least — it can become routine. You inspect the same building seven years in a row and it loses its excitement to you. It can get routine, but it depends on the days and what you’re doing.

Q: What do you do on a daily basis as fire inspector?

A: Formally, I conduct commercial occupancy inspections on all businesses in the fire district for compliance with the International Fire Code. Other than that, it’s a variety of things I do — citizens’ inquires, burn complaints, basically assist the public with anything that they call us for.

Q: What is your favorite movie?

A: I would say “Dances with Wolves,” just the early American spirit.

Q: Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Fellow CKFR Fire Inspector Steve Jackson: Tommy Lee Jones. He can laugh when he wants, but he can be real serious.

Nordlander: See, sometimes you need help from your friends.

Q: How long does it take to inspect a business?

A: It depends on the business. Are we talking a one-seat barbershop or Costco or Fred Meyer? You could be there 10-15 minutes or all day. It depends on what you see and what you run into.

Q: Do you inspect residential buildings as well?

A: We do residential on a requested basis. We’ll come in and do an inspection on their home and talk to them about fire escape planning and other things. We do it at no cost. I don’t think a lot of people know about it. We’ll test their smoke alarms, all that — just a wide range of things.

Q: What is the most common noncompliance businesses make regarding fire code?

A: I’d say probably some of the most common ones are exit sign light bulbs being burnt out and fire extinguishers not being serviced annually.

Q: What is one thing you want to try in your lifetime?

A: I would like to teach at the college level. I have a master’s in public administration and actually I’m supposed to teach this fall, but it’s something I haven’t done yet. It’s a philosophy of mine that you spend your whole life learning and when you’re older you should give back and teach.

Q: What’s the most important fire safety measure someone can take in their home?

A: Smoke alarms, a fire escape plan — they’re probably the top two and the leading cause of fires in the home is still cooking fires, so it’s a matter of being safe when cooking with grease. The mass majority of fires are preventable — not all, but most. How many fires do we have where people die because the batteries are pulled out of smoke alarms? That’s preventable.

Q: What one person made the biggest impression on your life?

A: I’d say the biggest person that’s made an impression on my life is Jesus. I can’t say there’s a second.

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