Fire chief looking to hire inspector

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Education is a key factor in making sure businesses are up to code in regard to fire safety said Richard Draper, Vermillion fire chief.

By inspecting Vermillion businesses for fire safety issues, Draper hopes to educate the business owners of potential fire hazards.

Improvement though, is something Draper said he is seeking.

The Vermillion Fire Department asked the Vermillion City Council to consider hiring a fire inspector at the Sept. 16 special meeting.

“I have taken an office to keep this community safe and to do everything I can to do that and whenever I see something that we can improve, we have to look at it,” Draper said.

Draper is the only paid employee of the Vermillion Fire Department. His jobs include: administrative work, community education, responding to fires, station maintenance, training and inspection. The department has 48 volunteers.

Draper said he can only investigate 15 to 20 percent of the businesses in Vermillion.

“Is that good? Yes, it’s the best we can do,” Draper said.

When Draper arrived at the department in January he did a needs assessment to see what areas of the department needed to be looked at. The results were a strong support by the community for the department and a strong operation of the department, but a deficiency in fire inspections.

The fire inspection process can sometimes be a multiple-visit process to make sure businesses are meeting all fire safety requirements Draper said.

The inspection is looking for things such as address numbers, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, extension cords, wiring and other codes set by the National Fire Protection Association.

He said it is not the businesses owners who are not doing anything wrong, it’s about educating them.

Draper said he also is able to gather information about emergency exits, hazardous materials and emergency contacts to put into a database in the event of a fire. He is able to pull up the information on his iPhone to assist firefighters in the department.

First-year Trevor Hudson said he would like to have someone inspecting Vermillion businesses for fire safety issue.

“I would feel safer knowing someone professional checked out the building before I was there,” Hudson said.

Hiring a fire inspector would cost $40,500 plus benefits full time or $15 an hour for a part-time inspector, Draper told the city council.

“I do understand the budget has to be balanced, obviously the money needs to come from somewhere. I may not get it,” Draper said.

The city council did not take any official action on the matter.