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Town discusses need for new fire marshal

There are certain spots in Southold Town that could be a “catastrophe” waiting to happen, should fire break out.

So said Norm Reilly of the Southold Town Fire Chiefs Council, who attended yesterday’s Southold town board work session to discuss the need for a fire marshal.

Currently, Southold Town has one part-time fire inspector, Bob Fisher, who would stay on when a new code enforcement officer is hired in 2016; the discussion revolved around whether to just have a code enforcement officer take on some fire-inspection duties, or designate that person specifically to a fire marshal’s role.

Reilly, who attended the meeting with Paul Romanelli, owner of Suffolk Security Systems in Southold, brought a list of job duties for a fire marshal, which include investigating complaints of fire hazards, correcting irregularities, reporting violations and investigating and filing reports detailing the nature and causes of fires in town. In addition, the individual would inspect all premises in town that contain hazardous materials and ensure placards are placed outside, to warn firefighters of the dangers within.

Another facet of the job would be reviewing plans and issuing permits for new construction and alterations to existing fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler systems and fire extinguishing systems.

Reilly said a fire marshal should be trained in fire service and safety; many in the public need education about commercial fire alarms and other issues, he said.

The individual, he said, should be available to work nights and weekends to spot check locations.

For example, after a fire, when the fire chief leaves, questions remain about when the alarm goes back on at the residence or business.

“No one follows up. We are lacking in that area,” Reilly said.

Romanelli added that as of this year, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory; inspections need to be done to ensure they are installed.

His concern, Reilly said, is that if a person is hired mainly for code enforcement, they may become busy and focused on other issues.

He said a fire marshal could check on locations including the town’s movie theaters or supermarkets, where hundreds of people gather, to make sure alarms are working and emergency exits remain clear and accessible.

If no one is checking, Reilly said, it’s possible “a catastrophe” could occur.

With the former Mattituck Waldbaum’s changing hands and re-opening today, Reilly said the town should be there, as they should with any new business to check firsthand that the alarm system is functioning and new owners are complying with code.

As it stands, Romanelli said, the current fire inspector only works part-time.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that’s why the town is looking add some additional manpower to that area in the form of the new code enforcement hire.

Russell said civil service would need to be asked if the position could still be called code enforcement, with fire marshal duties.

“The board knows this is important. It’s a topic affecting everyone in town,” said Councilman Bob Ghosio, who said soon sprinklers could soon be mandatory, despite those who resist the idea due to potential water damage.

Ghosio, whose own home burned down, said he lost three cats and almost everything. “When it happens to you, it’s almost like a death in the family,” he said. “It’s that tragic.”

So anything that can be done to prevent fire should be considered, he said.

Water damage is a big issue after fire, Romanelli said.

New materials have also led to homes burning more rapidly, Reilly said, adding that the recent house fire in Mattituck, where a house burned to the ground, leaving nothing but “charred bits,” is an example.

The board said they’d investigate how to label the new position and how the duties should be allocated.