CKFR inspectors picking up county Fire Marshal’s slack

In wake of the personnel issues that have recently caused a stir at the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue (CKFR) is working collaboratively with other fire agencies to maintain a level of service to the public.

With only two employees currently manning the Fire Marshal’s office, CKFR has joined forces with other fire jurisdictions throughout the county to pick up the work that still has to be done despite the rift in the county’s office.

“While it’s unfortunate what’s gone on at the Fire Marshal’s office, the response has been positive and shows how we can cooperatively respond to the public,” said CKFR Chief Ken Burdette.

He adds it is important that citizens are clear of the distinction between the Fire Marshal’s office and CKFR. Recently, many citizens have identified the two separate entities as being the same.

“We are not part of the county, the fire district is a separate entity,” he said. “We are a junior taxing district and while we work with the county, we are not the same.”

The Fire Marshal’s office is one of several divisions of the county’s Department of Community Development. One way to differentiate between the two is by the uniforms worn by CKFR staff.

“All of our personnel wear uniforms, Fire Marshal’s staff are dressed in civilian clothes,” he said.

Soon after the loss of personnel at the county’s office, CKFR formed an action plan with other fire agencies to cover plan reviews, inspections and fire investigations.

Plan reviews — which look at permits for “non-structural compliance with current building and fire codes” and includes fire alarms, building height and sprinkler systems — are a large part of the responsibilities recently taken on by local fire agencies.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to pick up some of the extra work load,” said CKFR assistant chief Roy Lusk.

“What we’re trying to do is provide a service so this has minimal impact on the public,” Burdette added.

Sharing the tasks of the Fire Marshal’s office is not a new concept for CKFR and is something that has been discussed in years past.

“We have been talking for a number of years on how we can improve on fire prevention services, but not so much on a formal basis,” Burdette said. “We have met with the county (before) to say, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’ ... This is nothing new, but has become a little more urgent with loss of personnel at the county. We had already begun to make a shift in resources. We’re not doing anything we haven’t already started.”

Remembering back to 1986, Lusk sees the additional work as “shifting back.”

“In 1986 we entered an agreement with the county to do inspections and fire investigations,” he said. “That was modified in 1994 ... We gave investigations back to the county in 2004. We’ve (now) taken it all back.”

The cooperative effort among fire agencies as well as within CKFR has gone smoothly, according to Lusk.

CKFR’s Life Safety Division is responsible for the additional responsibilities and has developed an action plan.

“We made a clear distinction of who does what,” Lusk said.

Although CKFR has taken on more duties, contractors and builders still need to make initial contact with the county.

“Nothing with that has changed,” Burdette said. “We just have a more major role in the life safety area and assisting the county in timely (plan) reviews.”

The recent collaboration not only involves local fire agencies, but other organizations as well including the Pierce County Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s offices.

“The cooperation between all agencies is something to be commended,” Burdette said.

“It’s a can-do attitude,” Lusk added.

While local agencies will continue to share resources and expertise across the county, a long-term plan has yet to be implemented and is expected to be discussed soon.

“Our next meeting is on April 13, after that we should have an idea of a long-term plan,” Burdette said.

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