Seven area fire protection districts located completely or partly in Jefferson County have entered into contracts with Jefferson County to perform free new residential construction inspections in compliance with the Jefferson County Fire Code.
The contracts between Jefferson County and the districts are the first in the state since a new law, sponsored by special interest groups, was passed eliminating the regulatory authority of fire protection districts to inspect new homes in those counties and cities in Missouri with more than one jurisdiction performing new home inspections.
The departments which have entered into agreements with Jefferson County are: Antonia Fire Department; DeSoto Rural Fire Protection District; Eureka Fire Protection District; High Ridge Fire Protection District; Pacific Fire Protection District; Rock Community Fire Protection District and Saline Valley Protection District.
The Home Builders Association wrote and sponsored legislation which eliminated the regulatory authority of fire districts to inspect new homes effective in August 2012. Concerned about fire safety in their communities, the Jefferson County districts approached the Jefferson County Building Department offering to perform the inspections at the “rough in” and “final” stages for free, since the new law did not prevent “advisory inspection” by fire districts.
“When a fire marshal inspects a home, it is the only opportunity a district has to inspect a home for fire safety prior to a fire,” Chief Paul Mayer of Desoto Rural Fire Protection said. “Statistics show that ninety-seven percent of all civilian fire deaths occur in residential structures.”
According to Chief Michael Arnhart of High Ridge Fire Protection District, “Fire prevention is just as important a service as fire suppression. The best ways to prevent loss of life due to fire are to reduce fires and reduce the amount of destruction caused by the fire. To the High Ridge Fire District, this is not an optional service but a responsibility.”
“Our veteran inspectors have the expertise to inspect new homes for fire-stopping, egress, fireplaces, smoke detectors, CO detectors, closed dryer vents, furnaces, water heaters and other fire-related matters,” said Chief Bob Dunn of Saline Valley Fire Protection District.
Under the agreements, the fire district inspectors will prepare a report on whether a new home, in the rough in stage, or in the final stage, has complied with the Jefferson County Fire Code. The report will be provided to the Jefferson County Building Department, which has the sole authority to enforce any code violations found by the fire inspectors.
Frank Vatterott, counsel for the fire districts, said, “This agreement is the first county/fire district cooperative agreement in the state of Missouri since the new law was passed and is an excellent example of leadership displayed by both the Jefferson County fire districts and Jefferson County Government. The bottom line is that the danger of fire will be lessened at no cost for these inspections.”
Editors note: This information was provided by Vatterott, Harris, Devine & Kwentus, P.C.