Task force to decide whether Virginia fire marshals office should be independent agency

Task force to decide whether Virginia fire marshal`s office should be independent agency

Whether the office of the Virginia fire marshal should be an independent public safety agency or a division of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is one issue under study by a task force created by the General Assembly. The committee was created to study the power of the fire marshal`s office to cite violations of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code. State law allows the fire marshal`s office to take a fire code violator to court, but it rarely does. The task force is expected to submit its report early this year. Committee members include officials from fire departments, the Virginia State Police, and building code organizations, as well as representatives from cities, counties, the fire marshal`s office, and the DHCD.

Fire prevention experts, police officials, building officials, and citizens participated in five regional meetings conducted by the task force. Many have recommended that the office of the fire marshal be an independent public safety agency. A former Virginia state fire marshal testified that having to consult with the deputy director or director of the DHCD has “hamstrung for years” the fire marshal`s enforcement efforts and that “fire safety enforcement is simply not compatible with other DHCD missions such as indoor plumbing inspection, removal of lead paint and providing low-income housing.”

The General Assembly had rejected previous attempts to move the fire marshal`s office out of the DHCD.

Reference: Fire Control Digest, Washington Capital News Reports, Inc.; Fairfax, Virginia Vol. 23:10 October.

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