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New fire inspector in town
Clallam County Fire District 3’s new fire inspector is Patrick Young. He inspects commercial buildings for fire hazards and safety for employees and customers. Young started Oct. 1. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
by MATTHEW NASH
After three years, Clallam County Fire District 3 is able to return to inspecting commercial buildings for common fire hazards to increase safety for employees and customers.
Patrick Young, of Napa, Calif., was hired as fire inspector Oct. 1, to perform “life safety” inspections of commercial buildings. Assistant Chief Roger Moeder said the fire district has tried to budget for the position since passing an EMS levy in August 2009.
“Several years ago we started the inspection program but found no one could keep up with it,” Moeder said.
Fire Chief Steve Vogel said between 2007-2010, the district trained crews for building inspections. He and duty crews were performing inspections on schools and nursing homes but businesses were hit or miss.
“The problem is, we’d set up appointments with business owners for inspections but our crews have had to go out on calls,” Vogel said. “With our call volume running close to 6,000 a year, we haven’t been doing any businesses.”
The fire district has been checking large assembly venues annually and the city of Sequim checks new developments within city limits.
Young’s coverage area spans from Deer Park to Gardiner and includes about 1,200 commercial sites. He said he’s going to start with larger places like apartments, hotels and restaurants.
If the inspections continue for at least three years, the district and Sequim could be eligible for a re-rating of their fire insurance premiums.
Right now the district is rated 6 and the city of Sequim is rated 5. A 10 rating is the least effective at putting out fires. Ten years ago, the fire district was an 8.
“The only thing holding us back from a lower insurance rating is effectively and consistently doing building inspections,” Vogel said.
“We’re so close to the next rating, we should have enough to affect the rates in the next three years.”
Vogel said a potential rate change could save homeowners $50 per $1,000 of their assessed property valuation.
“It affects every business owner and homeowner in the city of Sequim,” Vogel said. “We’re moving forward.”
California to Clallam County
For an immediate impact, Young plans to promote the three E’s: exits, extinguishers and extension cords, which are found most often to be in violation.
He said people have a lot of reactions when they find out they are noncompliant.
“If you approach it from an educational aspect, people are more open,” Young said.
The district sends out a self-inspection worksheet to all commercial occupancies so they can resolve issues before an inspection.
“The last thing anyone wants is a fire that shuts them down.”
Young said the misconception he’s received so far is that he has an iron fist as an inspector.
“We’re there to check in on safety and provide education on preventing fires,” he said. “For the most part, we’re just looking to do compliance. We’re not out there to shut anyone down.”
Young is working toward his fire inspector I and II certifications. He had similar certifications in California and plans to complete Washington’s requirements in a few months.
Young started his firefighting career in 1985 on the East Coast before moving to Port Townsend in 1995. He retired in 2005 because a heart condition kept him from fighting fires.
He started as a fire inspector in Napa, Calif., where he worked from 2008 to September 2010.
“Now instead of fighting fires, I prevent them,” Young said.
Transitioning to Sequim has been easy for him.
“Being on the fire side of things, you know how it spreads and it gives you a good idea if it will spread and how it’ll happen,” Young said.
For more information or to schedule an inspection, call Young at 683-4242, ext. 125, or Moeder at ext. 115.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.