January 26, 2006
Jim Hill, Assistant Fire Chief of the Ketchikan Fire Department, said for the past year, the Ketchikan Fire Department has been working on assuming the fire marshal "code enforcement" duties for the State of Alaska's Fire Marshal's Office. This process, referred to as "deferral", will allow for local fire code enforcement and enable the fire marshal's office to better serve local residents and businesses regarding fire safety practices, new construction permits, and eventually, construction plan reviews. Currently local business owners and contractors must have construction plans reviewed in Anchorage. This often results in delays and is difficult for local contractors to manage. The city expects to complete the deferral process by mid-2006.
The Ketchikan Fire Department received a FEMA "Fire Prevention" Grant for $110,000 in 2004. These funds will help with administration of the program, equipment and technology purchases, and training of prevention/inspection personnel said Hill. During 2006, six fire department members will attend training and become "Fire Inspector-II" certified. This month 24 local fire personnel will receive training in dealing with "Juvenile Fire-Setters" and arrangements are being made for a "fixed fire protection systems" class and members of the department will also attend "fire cause determination" training.
During 2006 changes will be made that address Ketchikan's fire and life-safety issues. Citizens and business owners should see, over the next few years, smoother/faster construction permits and plan reviews said Hill. At present, construction plans are reviewed and approved in Anchorage. The process is often very slow and the fees charged for this service leave Ketchikan. On a local level, concentration will be on life-safety issues with local businesses. Fire crews and the fire marshal's office have refined their business inspection program and will visit all local businesses on a regular basis. Some smaller businesses will also be eligible for our "self-inspection" program.
In the United States, more than 5,000 civilians are killed every year in fires and there are nearly 20,000 injuries to Americans annually. In 2004, 117 firefighters lost their lives in the line-of-duty. Fire in the United States still kills more people than all natural disasters combined. Direct property loss to fire approaches $11 Billion every year and the economic impact due to loss of business and income is staggering.
Hill said, "We want to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity here in Ketchikan and hopefully help local businesses realize reductions in fire and liability insurance rates." He said they believe a local Fire Marshal's office and our deferral from The State of Alaska will help us achieve our goals. There will be many changes said Hill. Over the next few months they hope to begin the "Self-Inspection Program" and will post fee schedules and fire prevention facts and forms on the city's web site. There will also be downloadable information available regarding Emergency Preparedness, Injury Prevention, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector facts, and a variety of other safety related information. Fire Station #1 at 319 Main Street and Fire Station #2 (next to The Landing) will also have a variety of flyers and information available to the public.
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