Routine fire safety inspections in the City of Sequim will resume this summer after they were put on hold for more than a year.
Leaders with the Clallam County Fire District 3 and the City of Sequim agreed to hire retired California firefighter Mike Mingee of Diamond Point as joint fire code technician, a 26-hour-a-week position.
Mingee, a volunteer lieutenant firefighter in Diamond Point since 2017, will start July 1.
Assistant fire chief Dan Orr said Mingee will develop and implement a fire safety inspection program of critical structures and occupancies such as schools, churches, restaurants, multi-family apartments, big box stores and more, along with some required state inspections.
In a previous interview, fire officials said it would take three full-time employees to inspect each business every year.
Following the expected retirement of inspector Steve Jackson in May 2020, the Sequim area has gone without routine inspections of existing structures to divert personnel costs toward the rising costs of emergency services.
In March, fire commissioners and city councilors agreed on an interlocal agreement to split the contract for up to $15,000 for a two-thirds employee this year, and $23,000-$26,000 for a full-year employee.
Orr said the possibility is open for Clallam County to join the agreement later, and/or the city or fire district to bring on more of the salary and add work hours.
“We want to get it up and running and see if there’s room for the county to jump in,” Orr said. “We may as a district or the city be willing to pick up. It appears to be beneficial with the possibility to grow and expand.”
The city and fire district previously partnered on an interlocal agreement from 1996-2020 for the position, with the fire district assuming the salary.
Orr said there shouldn’t be too much of a gap for Mingee as it’s only been a year without inspections.
“I don’t think there will be a huge regression,” he said. “It’s not 20 years of neglect.”
Mingee will start with focusing on assembly areas such as churches and schools, where Orr said there could be a large loss of life from a fire.
“It also makes it safer for firefighters, and gets our eyes into (a building) and businesses on a consistent basis to ensure safety,” Orr said.
Barry Berezowsky, Sequim’s director of community development, wrote via email that “the City appreciates District 3’s willingness to partner with the City to resume fire preventive services primarily through the annual fire safety inspection program.”
“This program is intended to help the community identify fire hazards, ensure fire equipment, such as fire extinguishers are inspected and working properly, serve as an educational opportunity, help maintain the City’s building stock and keep everyone safe.”
In a previous interview, Mingee said he continues to serve as a firefighter despite being retired at the time because ”I felt I still possessed skills to give back to the community.”