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Community Spotlight: Scoping out the work of Kitsap’s fire marshal

David Lynam - Photo by Kassie Korich
David Lynam
— image credit: Photo by Kassie Korich

By KASSIE KORICH

Editor

Kitsap County Fire Marshal David Lynam has been with Kitsap County for nearly two years, but it’s not his first time serving the area.

Lynam worked for the fire marshal’s office from 1985 to 1990. He then ventured down to Clark County in Southwest Washington to serve as their fire marshal. Before returning to Kitsap County, he worked for Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue for about two years.

Upon hearing the news of an opening for the position in Kitsap, he and his family returned in June 2006. We recently sat down with the fire investigator to find out what exactly it takes to do the job.

Question: What’s the most common cause of house fires?

Answer: Nationally, the problems that we’re having are cooking fires. Secondarily a huge problem that’s come up is candle fires. People 100 years ago, 50 years ago used candles and open flames a lot more for light and now they’re more for decoration and we see a lot of candle fires. Smoking is still a major contributor to fires, however that will be decreasing because legislation is passing that would require self-extinguishing cigarettes; cigarettes that don’t keep burning once you put them down, they’ll be more like cigars ... that will help us a lot.

Q: How do you become a fire marshal?

A: To be a fire marshal you have to have a good basis in the fire service. You have to know how buildings are constructed, you need to know how they’re used and maintained and you need to know how they’re burned, what happens when they burn, what happens to the people inside them. You need to have a good basis in science so that you can understand the dynamics and the chemistry of the fire and you need to have a basis in the fire service. It’s a growing process to go through, you can’t wake up one morning and just decide you want to be a fire marshal, it takes a while to acquire the skills.

Q: Were you ever a firefighter?

A: Yes, I was a firefighter for the city of Port Orchard from 1982 to 1990.

Q: What do you like best about working in Kitsap County?

A: I like the diversity we have here. I very much just like the natural beauty of living in the Puget Sound area and I like the kind of people who still live here, more of the kind of people we grew up with. They’re not big city people and I really like that. So I guess there’s three things about it I like.

Q: What drew you back to this area?

A: This is where I’m from. I grew up here. I graduated from South Kitsap High School. We always wanted to come back and it was a good opportunity, so we did.

Q: Do you have any kids?

A: Yes, I have two sons, both of them attend Klahowya.

Q: What’s the daily routine of a fire marshal?

A: I don’t spend as much time operating in the field as do the deputy fire marshals. Deputy fire marshals are the ones actively doing the plan reviews, they’re doing the inspections. I still carry a significant fire investigation workload because our office is still building up. But predominantly, my job is process management and control to make sure that the things that should get done are getting done in a timely manner.

Q: If there’s a fire, do they typically call the deputy fire marshals?

A: Through CenCom we just get a tone out for whatever kind of fire there is and they ask for an investigator. We do investigate every major fire that occurs out there. Fires where someone is injured or killed in a fire, fires that people just don’t know what caused them, arson fires, suspicious fires, fires that involve county property. Pretty much over about $10,000 loss we’ll at least be consulted.

Q: Are you for or against Silverdale incorporation?

A: I don’t really have an opinion about it. I know that the workload will change and the thing that I would hope is that whatever needs to be done, the programs will remain consistent with whatever political changes happen.

Q: Does it frustrate you when you investigate a fire that was caused by something as careless as an improperly discarded cigarette?

A: The things that really frustrate me are when we go into a home and the smoke alarms have been removed. Somebody will take a battery out of a smoke alarm to run a TV changer and they’ll leave themselves unprotected.

Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of investigating a fire?

A: The human interaction because you’re investigating an incident where people have lost everything they have. Particularly if it involves an injury or a death and most of those things that happen were preventable. They always ask, “What did I do?” or “What could I have done?” and that’s often the most difficult.

Q: Do you think every house should come equipped with sprinklers?

A: Yes I do. I don’t have them in the home that I have now, it’s one that I bought that was pre-existing. But when I built a home in Vancouver, it had sprinklers.

Q: What’s the most devastating fire you’ve seen?

A: There was a fire that happened in a manufactured home when I was in Clark County and there were two young boys, one was about 9 months old, one was about 2 years old and their dad bought the little boys a puppy and the puppy chewed the cords on their space heaters. Well, their dad kept fixing the space heater cords and they caused a fire. It killed both of his children and his wife. While he was trying to get his wife out of the house she died in his arms — literally trying to pull her out of a window.

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?

A: One of my favorite actors was Cary Grant. I always enjoyed Cary Grant movies because he seemed to be able to find humor in most everything. I really enjoy to laugh and I enjoy finding the humor in things, so I’ll take Cary Grant.

Q: How often is it that you’re unable to figure out the cause of a fire?

A: I would say maybe one in 10. In those instances we’ll come out with a whole examination of what the most probable cause was.

Q: What was the worst job you’ve ever had?

A: I delivered furniture and the job itself wasn’t one of those jobs that was predictable — that you could depend on getting so much work or you could depend on certain days off.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby?

A: My sons and I are involved in Civil War reenactment. We have a great time. Other than that, we’re hunters and fishermen, whatever the season is.

Q: In your opinion, what’s the most important fire safety rule the public should abide by?

A: Never go to sleep in a place that doesn’t have a working smoke alarm.

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

A: (Laughs) That probably changes week by week. I would love to take my family to go see the Rockettes’ Christmas Show at Radio City in New York.

Q: What is your favorite movie?

A: “True Grit”

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

A: I would say my mom. My dad passed away when I was 10 and that was 1970 so my mom pretty much did what had to be done when it had to be done.

• Editor’s Note: Community Spotlight is a weekly Q & A feature on a member in the community that appears Wednesdays in the CK Reporter. To nominate someone who lives or works in the CK area who you think deserves to be featured, call (360) 308-9161 or e-mail editor@centralkitsapreporter.com. All submitted nominations are drawn at random.

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