Preventing fires is just as important as fighting them. At the Lakeland Fire Department, that philosophy is front and center within Prevention Division, which is led by Fire Marshal Cheryl Edwards.
The personnel within Prevention interact with local businesses, architects, and contractors to ensure fire and life safety within the Lakeland community and compliance with fire codes. This interaction encompasses commercial plans review, inspections, and fire investigations.
Plans review for new commercial construction, modifications to existing commercial buildings, new fire protection systems, and modifications to existing fire protection systems is performed to ensure these facilities will meet fire codes, which protect the safety of all occupants, as well as meeting the access and water needs of fire suppression personnel. Once the plans are approved, the construction is allowed to begin, with inspections continuing throughout the construction phase by the Prevention Division. These inspections are conducted to verify that the approved plans were followed and all fire protection systems are installed properly and necessary function tests are performed. These inspections also ensure that there were no unapproved changes made during the process and that conditions inside the building remain safe during the construction period.
Once construction is complete, fire inspections continue on a recurring basis to help business owners identify potential fire hazards and life safety concerns and to ensure the building and any installed systems continue to meet fire and life safety codes. The Prevention Division is responsible for permitting and inspecting a variety of items, such as tank installations and removals, food trucks, sparkler sales, fireworks displays, and pyrotechnics. Follow up on false alarms and complaints and serving on the City of Lakeland Development Review Team are also responsibilities of the division. It is this division’s responsibility to enforce the extensive codes included in the Florida Fire Prevention Code in an effort to keep citizens, business owners, visitors, and emergency responders as safe as possible.
This division is also responsible for the investigation of all fires and fire-related incidents within the department’s response area that have a suspicious or undetermined origin and cause, have a serious injury or death, or have a large dollar loss. To determine fire origin and cause, an examination and excavation of the fire scene is conducted. The fire scene is documented by the investigator. If the fire is deemed to be arson, the division contacts the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations to conduct the criminal investigation. Understanding fire cause is vital to the safety of the community so that preventive measures may be strengthened and unlawful acts prosecuted.
The dedicated team, consisting of the Fire Marshal, five Fire Inspectors, and one Office Associate, works hard to provide the most comprehensive, fire prevention program possible. Each inspector covers one quarter of the city, with the remaining inspector covering the airport properties and serving as the lead investigator. The five inspectors rotate being on-call for fire investigations.
The Prevention Division of the Lakeland Fire Department is responsible for ensuring the safety of the Lakeland community by preventing injuries, deaths, and property damage while improving the quality of life for citizens.