The Economic Development Pulse Second Quarter 2016 - Page 5

Community

5

The Fire Marshal’s office reviews plans and permits for:

• New commercial buildings

• Additions and remodels to existing buildings

• Automatic sprinkler and fire alarm systems

• Hood suppression systems

• Underground and Above Ground fuel storage tanks ( UST and AST)

• Fire apparatus access roads

• Hydrant requirements

• Hazardous material storage

Mata and his staff heartily believe in promoting educational fire and injury prevention programs. As investigators, every year they witness survival stories and tragedies due to the lack of basic fire prevention awareness. Many programs differ in size and approach, but the goals are the same: Change the behavior of the public so that there are fewer dangerous situations, fires, and injuries. Based on community needs and national analysis, Odessa Fire and Rescue has implemented several programs that are unique to Odessa that include a custom built fire safety mobile house presentation, child safety seat program, fire extinguisher training, free smoke alarm program and events for Fire Prevention Week.

Educational program results are hard to measure, but Mata measures success based on the number of thank yous his department receives on a daily basis. Mata’s favorite success story took place a few years ago, when a young boy and his family experienced a house fire. Unbeknownst to the family, the fire quickly spread throughout their attic before the family managed to get out safely. The father realized he forgot his car keys in the house and told his family he was going back into the house to retrieve them. His school aged son, having just participated in an education fire prevention program by the Odessa Fire and Rescue, told him “No, you’re never supposed to go back inside” and he grabbed his father’s leg to prevent him from going back in the house. In that split second, the attic caved in, making the child a hero and the educational program a success.

In 2015, 1,298,000 fires were reported in the United States causing 3,375 civilian deaths, 15,775 civilian injuries and $11.6 billion in property damage. In Odessa alone for 2015, 157 structure fires were reported and 136 fires were investigated with 5 injuries reported. The total property loss valued at $2,554,296 and the value for saved property totaled to $146,846,196. Over a six year time period, nearly $280 million worth of property was saved and close to $18 million was considered a loss.

After every fire, investigators explore and document the origin and cause of fires in addition to determining responsible human actions and bringing authoritative testimony to the courtroom in cases of arson. Investigators require knowledge of building construction and materials, the effects of fire upon those materials, evidence preservation methods and the effects of fire suppression, fire behavior and burn patterns. Search techniques must also be learned so that fire cause evidence and ignition sources are preserved during the investigation. The number one leading cause of home structure fires, injuries and death is cooking.

Mata stresses that without public education and fire code enforcement, many commercial businesses would be at risk of property loss. Thus, he has taken measures to be proactive and reduce inspection times for new construction by discussing codes and reviewing blueprints to ensure code compliance before each new structure is built.

The Fire Marshal’s Office creates a team environment with contractors and design professionals to review plans for code compliance and provide quality customer service. “Preventing fire is everyone’s fight, and keeping the citizens of Odessa safe is our main priority!” said Mata.