This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Fire inspections are an important part of the Longmont Fire Department’s responsibility.
Longmont Fire Services regularly inspects every business and high occupancy residential structure in the city. The over 4,000 businesses operating within the City of Longmont are categorized as low, medium, and high-risk facilities and their risk level determines who inspects the business and how often.
Six fire engine companies conduct inspections on a two-year rotation for target businesses, and fire prevention personnel conduct annual inspections for high-hazard type businesses and educational facilities.
New construction projects undergo two standard fire inspections – the rough inspection before the building is completed, and then the final inspection when the building is ready to be occupied and open for business. Similarly, when an existing building changes use, it is subject to a new inspection. Sprinkler systems, fire alarms, exit doors, signage etc. are all reviewed. There is even a two-page checklist specifically for Marijuana Facilities Fire Inspections.
Amy Hennion, an 18 year Longmont firefighter veteran, is the Senior Fire Inspector. She stresses that Fire Services tries to implement a collaborative approach when dealing with inspections. While there are very few instances of non-compliance following an inspection, Fire Services makes suggestions and works with the facility owner or the contractor.
When a church could not open for services following renovations, Fire Services allowed the church to hire people as fire watchers during services when there were people in the building. On a larger scale, a Fire Services representative attended weekly construction meetings while the Smuckers plant was being built.
Not all businesses have to have a regular physical, onsite inspection. Longmont Fire Services has implemented a self-inspection program for eligible businesses within the City of Longmont.
This program is intended to provide an opportunity for Longmont Fire Services and the business community to form a partnership in fire and life safety. Examples of businesses eligible for self-inspection include professional offices, retail stores, hair salons, florist shops, aircraft hangars, grocery stores, etc. as they are considered at a lower risk for fire.
Businesses participating in the self-inspection program may do so for four years. On the 5th year, the fire department will conduct an on-site inspection to give the fire department the opportunity to become familiar with the structure, to observe operations at the business and evaluate the success of the self-inspection program. The fire department anticipates that the program will make more efficient use of time and resources for both business and the city.
Fire Services also investigates other possible fire dangers such as when a gas tank is being removed from a gas station, and also responds to complaints from the public about backyard barbeques, trash burning and similar.
Despite the rigorous inspection and education system, there are roughly 200 ignitions (fires) a year which are also investigated by the Fire Department. Captain Michele Goldman is the fire marshal. She oversees the Fire Investigation Department. It is a specialty team and a collateral assignment.
All fire officers have basic investigations training and the procedure is to contact a member of the Fire Investigations team on every ignition. There are six members on the investigation team, including one consultant. All member of the Fire Investigation team do regular firefighting work and operate as part of an engine crew.