FIRE MARSHAL'S OFFICE
The Fire Marshal's Office provides three major services, which are enforcement, regulatory and hazardous materials response.
The enforcement service consists of the investigation of fires for the determination of origin and cause, whether accidental or incendiary; any fire related death or injury, and complies all the related documentation for such instances. All fire and arson investigations are conducted from the preliminary investigation, to follow ups, to the prosecution, if warranted, and work in conjunction with other agencies such as the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms where the scope of the investigation may fall within their jurisdiction. Also, the Fire Marshal's Office enforces the County's open burning regulations, which prohibits the burning of any refuse materials. All members are state certified fire investigators or working towards certification. The Fire Marshal's Office conducts approximately seventy fire, arson, and explosive investigations per year.
The regulatory service consists of the inspection of all buildings (businesses, factories, industries, churches, schools, day cares, rest homes, etc.) within Burke County as they relate to the maintenance and requirements of the North Carolina State Fire Prevention Code, Volume 5. The overall inspection process includes building plans review for new occupancies, the issuance of permits, sprinkler plans review, fire alarm systems review, and the inspection of the occupancy for any life safety (ex. exits) or fire safety (ex. housekeeping) violations. Should any violation(s) occur, corrective actions are suggested and a re-inspection is conducted. All personnel are certified as Fire Inspector Level III by the North Carolina Code Officials Qualification Board. The Fire Marshal's Office conducts four hundred eighty inspections per year.
The hazardous materials response service is a joint venture between the Fire Marshal's Office, other emergency agencies, and Morganton Department of Public Safety that came together to form a hazardous materials response team. The haz mat team was formed in 1988 and is available to respond to all areas of the County and municipalities. The team consists of twenty-one members and two response vehicles. Eleven members are state certified at the technician level that requires over two hundred hours of initial training and the remaining personnel are state certified at operations level. The team is capable to respond to a situation involving the release of a hazardous material from a fixed facility or a transportation incident for mitigation purposes that may require the use of special chemical protective clothing and respiratory protection. The hazardous materials team responds to approximately twenty-five calls per year. Also, the Fire Marshal's Office maintains chemical inventories from over one hundred thirty -five fixed facilities that are required to report under a federal law known as the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, or better known as SARA Title III.
The Fire Marshal's Office has joined forces with other agencies in a cooperative effort to promote fire safety within the county. This includes participating with Burke County Firefighter's Association and the Burke County Health Department in a local level program entitled Operation Fire Safe. This state wide program is sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Insurance - Office of State Fire Marshal and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services - Division of Public Health as part of the Get Alarmed North Carolina Task Force initiative to help prevent residential fire deaths in our state by installing smoke detectors within the home. This program targets low-income families with or without children, fixed income families, older adults or disabled persons. This program is not available to families or persons who rent since state law requires all rental property to have a working smoke detector installed. Also, in conjunction with the Burke County Firefighters Association we have provided fire prevention and educational materials to each public and private elementary school in Burke County for the past twelve years. These materials are furnished by the National Fire Safety Council and are used by teachers to help promote fire safety within the school and home. Local business leaders and organizations, and fire departments within the county fund this project.
Other services by the Fire Marshal's Office are support to search and rescue missions, the inspection of houses for the presence of asbestos for possible live fire training by the fire departments, carbon monoxide detection, fire extinguishers training, and fire protection, safety and education classes to local organizations.