The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office was established in 1974. As its first fire marshal, J.J. Pruitt supervised a handful of investigators and inspectors assigned to perform fire and life safety inspections, investigate fires and maintain fire records. While in its infancy, the office operated out of a small county facility located in the Spring Branch area. Over the past four decades, the department has grown to more than 55 full-time and part-time employees. It has gradually expanded in order to undertake additional responsibilities thrust upon it such as emergency response services, inspection of new construction to ensure buildings meet fire code, and participation in Homeland Security programs. Under the current leadership of Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery, the fire marshal’s office has opened a second facility in order to more effectively serve the nearly 1.7 million citizens in the unincorporated areas of Harris County.
The Operational Support
Branch provides financial and business services to the HCFMO agency. By providing these services HCFMO adds value to the critical function mission areas of, Fire Prevention, Fire Investigation, and Emergency Operations. We support the mission of the HCFMO by providing operational support services providing professional, “best administrative practice” models, and provide a dynamic work environment.
The Fire Investigation
Branch is staffed by Fire/Arson Investigators who are responsible for investigating fires and explosions in the unincorporated area of Harris County. This group maintains fire records and juvenile intervention service activities. It responds to scenes when requested by fire departments, police departments and the general public and examines the fire scene to determine the origin and cause of the fire. Fire investigators obtain evidence, submit it for analysis, pursue leads in criminal cases and present probable cause to the district attorney for arrest and testify in court. They also train fire departments, the general public and law enforcement regarding fire investigation and the responsibility of first responders.
The Fire Prevention
Branch is staffed by Fire Inspectors. They are responsible for preventing fires through periodic inspection of commercial or public buildings, licensed facilities/operations and other buildings in the unincorporated county. They inspect for fire/life safety hazards in all existing commercial, multi-family dwelling and state-licensed facilities, i.e. daycares, foster homes, nursing homes, schools and hospitals. Inspectors investigate complaints of illegal burning, overcrowding, locked or blocked exits and ensure burned buildings are secured. If warranted, they issue Fire Marshal Orders to ensure code compliance. The prevention branch also educates and trains the public and emergency responders with a wide variety of fire/life safety programs.
The Juvenile FireStoppers
Group is a specialized unit within the Prevention Branch. It provides education and intervention for children from 2-17 years old who have played with, thought about or actually set a fire. This unit evaluates juveniles to determine the motivation behind firesetting behavior, refers children and families to other agencies for assistance and educates the juvenile and the family to the consequences of firesetting.
The Emergency Operations
Branch, also known as the HazMat group, is responsible for planning, mitigation and recovery from emergencies and disasters, whether natural, accidental or deliberate act. The branch is staffed by Hazardous Materials Technicians. They respond to incidents for identification and control of hazardous materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction, support local fire and law enforcement in hazardous spills and releases, and perform safety inspections of facilities that store, sell or use hazardous materials. They also assists in investigative efforts where hazardous materials and WMDs are involved. Technicians also train local first responders on how to deal with hazardous materials and WMD situations.