It was the first class of its kind and Brad Alley, fire marshal for the city of Harker Heights, was one of only 20 applicants to be selected from across the state for the Fire Executive Management Training at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management of Texas, or LEMIT.
Alley graduated in November from the program held at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, a cooperative program between LEMIT and the Texas Fire Marshals Association.
Alley has served as fire marshal in Harker Heights for the past five years and in the fire service for the past 25 years.
He is supported by Randy Ray, an inspector/investigator.
“In the state of Texas, fire marshals wear two hats. They are the fire prevention experts and investigators while at the same time considered peace officers. There’s all kinds of choices for police chiefs and other peace officers but until now there was not much offered for just the fire marshal side of the house,” Alley said.
Through a two-module curriculum including the topics of Fire Marshal Professional Qualifications, Standards on Fire Prevention Inspection, Code Enforcement, Plan Review, Investigation and Public Education, graduates have the skills to serve as fire executives who can effectively manage fire marshals’ offices.
“Now we have the tools and training to be more effective in both the fire and law enforcement parts of our job,” Alley said.
Alley told the Herald that a fire marshal’s job could be best described as fluid and often unpredictable.
“ Combine research, working with business owners and developers on plans that meet the fire codes, inspections, and the response to situations such as a structure fire that we were dispatched to recently, a fire marshal can experience long days, at times.,” Alley said.
“I respond to all fires where there is a clear indication of a criminal element involved. I must pursue that immediately and give it precedence because people’s memories begin to fade and important information has a tendency to fade away,” Alley said.
According to Alley, the motion picture “Backdraft” exhibited some truth when there are the elements of fire such as fuel, ignition source and air.
Those things have to come together in such a way that there is sustained combustion. When air runs out, the fire dies down. There can be enough smoke and other elements in a compartment and the fire decreases until air is introduced back into the space, and that’s where backdraft comes from, he said. All the fire-causing elements are being added back in through ventilation.
“I always caution people to sleep with your bedroom doors closed. I caution parents who have children who want to hear if the baby cries at night. I say the best investment is a loud baby monitor. Close the children’s doors, as well, because it will buy time and will make the environment more survivable,” Alley said.
Human behavior is what the fire code and fire prevention try to address. In several years, there has not been a fire-related death in structures that have sprinkler systems, Alley said. “They save lives along with smoke detectors.”
From Dec, 10 to Dec. 16, 67 home fire fatalities were reported by the U.S. news media. Four of those were in Texas. Twenty of these deaths were adults who were 65 and over. Twelve were under 14 years of age.
Alley said he gladly welcomes opportunities to conduct home inspections that will ensure that the local fire code is being met.
“I will make suggestions of the things I found and what they can do to make the environment safer and have better odds in case there is a fire,” he said.
To schedule an appointment, call 254-699-2688.