The Fire Prevention Bureau is that part of a fire department that provides an increased degree of fire and life safety to the citizens of the community through the application and enforcement of building and fire regulations and statutes. Proper fire prevention has a direct impact on the frequency, severity, economic impact and loss of life caused by fires regardless of cause. The majority of fires having large losses of life in the United States had a direct connection to uses or practices that could have been prevented through an effective fire prevention program. Our bottom line is to save lives and property and prevent needless injuries. Fire Prevention has three basic elements; Enforcement, Education and Engineering. These can be described as follows:
- Enforcement: This is done through fire safety inspections of existing structures and occupancies for conformance with adopted standards. This is followed by revisits of the inspected facilities to verify completion of the identified deficiencies. These inspections are be conducted for clinics, day care centers, residential care facilities, organized camps, schools, assembly occupancies, hotels, motels, apartment buildings, jails and detention facilities, businesses, mercantile occupancies, packing houses, cold storage facilities, storage facilities, processing facilities, office buildings, health care facilities, Ethanol plants, gas stations, etc.
Enforcement also includes inspection of intended uses such as; public fireworks displays, retail firework stands, Christmas tree stands that apply flame retardant to Christmas trees, the use and storage of hazardous materials, welding and utilization of flammable materials or chemicals in processing operations.
Enforcement is also carried out through a Hazard Abatement Program that reduces the risk of fire due to excessive combustible vegetation and other exterior combustible hazards through the identification and abatement of lots or property that have overgrown weeds, grass or other combustibles. Yet another aspect of enforcement is the investigation of all fires whether they are from natural, accidental or deliberate causes. First arriving Company Officers are responsible for conducting an origin and cause fire investigation. When the fire investigation becomes more in-depth, a Prevention Captain will conduct or coordinate the fire investigation. Tulare County Fire Investigators participate in the Tulare / Kings FIST program, this program allows outside agencies through mutual aid agreements to assist in the fire investigation.
- Education: This element is carried out by the Public Fire Education programs delivered to the public that will reach and educate the general public, high-risk groups, children, elderly and the non-English speaking persons. This is done though programs such as juvenile fire-setters, a smoke alarm distribution and installation program, community first aid and CPR, NFPA Firewatch, Sparky the Dog and other programs that partner with public schools at the different grade levels. This would also include programs that are disseminated at community events such as the county fair and community festivals.
- Engineering: This is done through plan review of new building construction, fire protection systems, fire department access and water supplies for fire suppression purposes for conformance with all adopted codes and standards. In this process, there is also technical consideration and meetings with architects and engineers relative to their project. This is followed by field construction inspections to verify that all construction is per approved plans and that all fire protection systems are installed properly. This would include acceptance testing of all fire protection systems and devices such as; fire alarms, automatic sprinkler systems, emergency generators and fire pumps, smoke removal systems, etc.
Code interpretations are a very important engineering element of fire prevention. The division is required to provide written code interpretations to design professionals, as well as to the public and all constituents, as to the intent of any specific section of thecode or adopted standards. This clarification allows the designers to provide a safe building design and it saves them time and money in the course of the project.