Since May 2020, the Decatur Fire Department has been without fire investigators or inspectors.
These individuals are responsible for promoting fire prevention and safety, investigating the cause of fires, and ensuring buildings meet fire safety standards. Prior to May, there were three full-time firefighters in this division. Currently, there are none.
Not having fire investigators and inspectors can negatively impact public safety. Fire prevention programs provide fire safety education for children and parents. Fire inspectors inspect buildings to make sure they are safe and perform fire code enforcement. Fire investigators determine the cause of fires, including arson. Just as a police department needs detectives and a school system needs teaching assistants, a fire department needs fire investigators and inspectors.
Typically, the DFD conducts 125 fire investigations each year, inspects over 250 schools and businesses, installs over 150 smoke detectors — including for families with limited income — and provides dozens of educational programs.
Decatur has a larger number of structural fires than other local municipalities and thus, has a greater need for fire investigators. Without investigators, firefighters must remain at the site of suspicious fires until the State Fire Marshal investigator arrives, potentially limiting the capabilities of the fire department for long periods of time.
Year-to-date through April, the DFD has responded to 3,423 alarms compared to 3,481 in 2019 (2% fewer). However, while the number of calls is similar, the number of firefighters is currently 100 compared to 108 budgeted (7% fewer). Thus, not only does the city lack important capabilities in fire inspection and investigation, but the overall number of firefighters is less while the needs remain equivalent.
Public safety is the top priority of city government and currently Decatur is lacking significant capabilities in a critical area of its fire department. The city needs to promptly address and resolve this public safety issue.
David J. Horn, Decatur City Council
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