GREENFIELD — Brian Lott’s memories of growing up near a fire station in Fishers are dotted with the sounds of a firehouse siren, at that time perched on the side an old farm silo. He’d ride his bike to the station and watch as volunteer firefighters gathered their gear and headed out the blaze.
Those days instilled in him a desire to serve the community in the way those firefighters did, he said; a passion and dedication he plans to give to the Greenfield Fire Territory.
Lott was recently hired to be the department’s first full-time fire marshal, charged with visiting businesses and construction sites around town to conduct inspections to ensure the owners and builders are keeping up with fire codes that keep workers safe.
Until now, those duties have fallen to other firefighters in the departments, and some inspections have fallen by the wayside because firefighters are handling more emergency calls than ever before, Chief James Roberts said.
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Lott fills a void left when one of department’s deputy fire chief retired several years ago, and the position was never replaced; funding for the position has been sitting in the city’s budget unused, Roberts said.
Lott’s hiring comes on the heels of the fire territory adding five firefighters to its ranks, Roberts said. He will oversee nine firefighters trained as inspectors and investigators.
Roberts and other city officials are hopeful that bringing Lott on board will help the department keep up with the inspections and, ultimately, make the community safer.
That responsibility falls right in his wheelhouse, Lott said.
“I know it sounds cliché, but I love helping people,” Lott said. “It’s my nature. I love helping people and making sure they have what they need and that they are safe.”
In the new position, Lott becomes the fifth member of the department’s administration, making about $59,000 a year. While his main role will be enforcing fire regulations and conducting annual inspections, he’ll also serve as the lead investigator at large structure fires, charged with finding out what started the blaze, he said.
Lott will play a role in new development in the area and will have access to site plans, both commercial and residential, to check that roadways, driveways and parking lots are large enough for the department’s trucks to get in and out and to ensure fire hydrants and hook-ups are in the right place.
Much like a building inspector, the fire marshal visits construction sites, first to make sure builders follow fire regulations and again once construction is complete, said Jason Horning, the department’s deputy chief of operations. Once building codes are enforced, inspectors usually don’t return to the structure unless there is a problem; but a fire marshal will continue those visits annually to be sure the owners keep up with fire codes, Horning said.
For years, those sorts of duties fell to firefighters in addition to handling emergency runs, Roberts said. But an ever-increasing call load has had the department’s manpower stretched thin; the territory is projected to have a record 3,600 calls in 2015, which is up by about 200 calls from 2014, Roberts said.
Firefighters and officers have made their way out to “high priority areas,” as Roberts referred to them, including Hancock Regional Hospital, Greenfield-Central Schools’ buildings and daycare centers and nursing homes in the area. But a few commercial buildings have had to wait longer than the annual inspection the city prefers, Roberts said.
“With the run load as it’s grown so much, it’s been virtually impossible for the guys on shift to do those annual inspections,” he said. “We’re dramatically busier than we were.”
To date, there have been no major fires because buildings weren’t up to code, but several smaller blazes, like two last month at local restaurants caused by uncleaned oven hoods, might have been prevented by an inspection, Roberts said.
Those are the little things Lott’s training and experience will help him spot. He’s trained to look for details, things like worn extension cords, old fire extinguishers or lights that have burned out in an exit sign. Those seem like minor problems, but they can put people at risk if left unattended.
“The biggest thing is getting into the businesses and making sure it’s safe for patrons and employees to work in and visit,” Lott said.
Lott served with the Fishers Fire Department for nearly 34 years before coming to Greenfield in October. He started his career in Fishers as the department’s fire marshal then moved through the ranks. He worked as the department’s deputy chief for 15 year and the chief for 14, before taking the fire marshal post once again.
He’d been looking to retire for the Fishers Department when word of the opening in Greenfield got his attention. So far, it’s become a perfect fit, he said.
During a large structure fire, Lott will go back to his roots serving along local firefighters as needed, officials said.
Having Lott join the department was a welcome addition, and his position benefits the department and city as a whole, said Horning, who also serves on the Greenfield City Council.
“I think I can speak for anyone on the council when I say public safety is always a priority,” Horning said. “We want to keep people safe.”
- Working exit signs and emergency lights
- Functioning fire alarms
- Posted no-smoking signs
- Up-to-date emergency evacuation plans
- Well-placed fire hydrants, sprinklers and hook-ups
- Working fire extinguishers
Source: In.gov, Greenfield Fire Territory
“I know it sounds cliché, but I love helping people. It’s my nature. I love helping people and making sure they have what they need and that they are safe.”
Brian Lott, newly appointed fire marshal for the Greenfield Fire Territory
Fire marshals serve as inspectors and investigators.
A fire marshal is charged with visiting local businesses to make sure the establishment is keeping up with fire and safety codes put in place by the city or state. A fire marshal also serves as the lead investigator at any structure fire to determine the cause and origin of the blaze.
Source: Greenfield Fire Territory