A West Bloomfield fire inspector looks at the fire extinguisher in a business in West Bloomfield. During inspections, inspectors look at fire suppression devices, such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers.

A West Bloomfield fire inspector looks at the fire extinguisher in a business in West Bloomfield. During inspections, inspectors look at fire suppression devices, such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers.

Photo provided by Byron Turnquist


Fire inspections focus on prevention, education

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 11, 2018

 The West Bloomfield Fire Department demonstrates how a fire hydrant works.

The West Bloomfield Fire Department demonstrates how a fire hydrant works.

Photo provided by Byron Turnquist

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Whether it be a restaurant, a business or a home, all structures go through a process of inspection to make sure they’re safe for people to use. 

And more and more are passing the first time around. 

West Bloomfield Fire Marshal Byron Turnquist estimated that in 2013, 80 percent of inspections failed and required a reinspection. In 2017, only 22 percent of inspections failed, nearly a 10 percent improvement each year. 

“We’ve had a lot of success teaching everyone we’ve come in contact with just general fire safety,” said Turnquist. “Things have been really positive through the township and tri-cities.” 

The West Bloomfield Fire Department’s Fire Marshal Division heads up inspections for West Bloomfield and the tri-cities area. 

Local fire departments’ funding and manpower to perform proper inspections have become a topic of discussion recently, and Turnquist said that while the department’s Fire Marshal Division is a small one, it completes over 1,000 inspections every year. 

“Some communities (might slack on inspections), but that’s far from the truth in West Bloomfield and the tri-cities,” he said. The Fire Department also has jurisdiction over Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake. “We spend a lot of time doing inspections, and (we) don’t want people to think we aren’t.”

The Fire Marshal Division has three full-time employees: Turnquist, a deputy fire marshal and an inspector. Two firefighters in the department are cross-trained as inspectors to help out and do follow-up inspections. 

“Having additional manpower would always be helpful, but I think we’re doing a good job with what we have,” said Turnquist. 

The West Bloomfield Fire Department doesn’t report its inspections to the state, but it keeps track of them within the department to measure successes and failures. 

“There’s no avenue to report to the state, really,” said Turnquist, noting that the West Bloomfield Fire Department has a good relationship with the state fire marshal. 

In addition to inspections, the Fire Marshal Division performs fire investigations, goes to township Planning Commission meetings to guide developers, and works on public education, holding tours of the department, fire safety demonstrations and talks about fire prevention. 

Fire Chief Greg Flynn said that as a whole, the department is focused on risk reduction in the community. 

“Fire inspections are a way for our staff to get into these buildings, recognize risk and mitigate those risks,” he said. 

The department has adopted the 2015 International Fire Code, a comprehensive guide that establishes minimum regulations for fire prevention and protection, as well as the Michigan Building Code set forth by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. 

Both of these codes set standards on how to address conditions hazardous to life and property. 

State law requires annual inspections of “places of public assemblage,” including churches, theaters and restaurants. 

Turnquist said that the West Bloomfield Fire Department inspects all of these types of buildings in its jurisdiction. 

In 2017, the department performed just under 1,200 inspections. The department has split up its jurisdiction into 12 zones, one for each month of the year. All new businesses and developments are required to go through an inspection process. 

Turnquist said he likes to emphasize fire prevention and education during inspections. 

“It takes a lot of time to go back to a business two or three times to make sure they fix issues,” he said. “We want to teach our business owners why they need to do things, not to give a list of violations and threaten with tickets. 

“We want to build relationships with our business owners and teach them the ‘why.’ ... We work hard to do what we do to make things safer in the community.”  

When people are inside a building and know they are safe, Flynn said, that’s when the West Bloomfield Fire Department is doing its job well. 

“We work with business owners to educate them so they understand why we are doing what we do,” said Flynn. “We work to be a good steward of safety in our community.” 

For more information on the WBFD, visit www.wbtownship.org/government/departments/fire.