The Fire Department created the Fire Prevention Bureau in September of 1954. Previously, fire prevention had taken a back seat to fire suppression and rescue.
Prior to the establishment of the Fire Prevention Bureau, on duty personnel performed the fire prevention function as part of their regular duties, and as time permitted. However, it was not until the 1970’s that individuals were hired specifically for fire prevention duties.
Members of the Fire Prevention Bureau were initially trained in fire-arson investigation, fire scene photography, code enforcement, and inspection, and they conducted safety classes and inspections of commercial buildings. Over the years, the role of fire prevention has expanded.
Currently, the fire prevention office conducts reviews of construction plans, determining whether they meet the requirements of the State Fire Code of WV, and the NFPA codes. While construction is proceeding, the Fire Prevention Bureau does inspections to determine if the code’s requirements are actually being met. New and old buildings are inspected for compliance and safety considerations.
Another point of emphasis is public education. Local businesses and citizens get fire extinguisher training, CPR training, first aid, and fire safety education.
The Fire Prevention Bureau was recognized by the NFPA in 1994 with their Champion Award. This award provides materials to teach fire prevention and safety to grade school children, and is a county wide program.
The great blaze of 1912 destroyed almost four blocks of downtown Beckley. The lessons of that fire have not been lost on the Fire Prevention Bureau; the value of inspection, education, and prevention have served the citizens of Beckley well and will continue to provide great dividends into the future.