Fire Prevention

Efforts were made in the early days of the Village of Delaware to regulate hazards that might cause fire. An ordinance was passed on July 19, 1835 banning the explosion of firecrackers and gunpowder within the corporation except on Muster Day (July 4th). On July 20, 1835 an ordinance was passed making it unlawful to keep in any house, store or building more than eight pounds of gun powder. 

Fire Wardens and their duties were established by ordinance by the Village Council on Dec. 30, 1853. The Village was divided into four Fire Districts using William and Sandusky Streets as the dividing lines. A fire warden was appointed by the Council for each district. The following were their responsibilities:

“It shall be the duty of each of the Fire Wardens and they are hereby authorized to enter any house or building lot, yard or premises in the corporation on any week day between the rising and setting of the sun, for the purpose of examining any fire place, stove, hearth, chimney, kettle, boiler or apparatus, which may be dangerous in causing damage by fire and w hen they or any of them shall in writing direct the owner agent or occupant of any premises containing any of the said dangers or apparatus aforesaid to remove, alter or amend the same in such manner and within such time as he or they may deem reasonable and just; and they may also adopt general rules and regulations and publish the same in the newspapers of the Village in relation to the manner of constructing and regulating all manner of stoves, chimneys and fire places with a view of making them safe and secure from fire; and any person or persons who shall resist the entrance of the Fire Wardens into any premise or shall refuse or neglect to attend to and comply with the directions given for altering or amending or removing any of the dangers or any regulations published by the Fire Warden shall be fined not more than twenty dollars and for each second offense not more than forty dollars with costs. Each and every day that it continues shall be considered a second offense.

It shall be the duty of the Fire Wardens to examine all places in his district where fires are kept and to see that the same is constructed in a safe manner as often as every thirty days. For the performance of his duty each Fire Warden shall be paid $1.50 for each day he is engaged in actual service, allowing ten hours for each day of service.”  

Village Council Ordinance, 1853

A Nov. 6, 1865 ordinance made it unlawful to cast or throw any fireball or other thing saturated with spirits of turpentine or any other combustible matter within the Village limits. Violation could result in a $10 fine or imprisonment of 24 hours.

A fine of $25.00 and imprisonment of 10 days was established by ordinance Jan. 6, 1873 for willfully giving a false alarm of fire. Also an ordinance prohibiting the taking of water from a fire cistern was passed 12/21/1872.

Ten Fire Guards were appointed May 8, 1871 with full police powers  

It appears that any fire prevention inspections that took place from 1874 up until 1951 were done by the Chiefs on an as-needed or hit and miss basis.

Fire Prevention Code, 1951

In 1951 Chief Jerry Pliickebaum passed the first formal Fire Prevention Code for the City of Delaware. The ordinance included the adoption by reference of the 1947 edition of National Fire Prevention Code by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. James Gatton who had transferred from the Police Department in January of 1951 became the first Fire Prevention Inspector. In the absence of any vehicle he enforced the Code primarily in the downtown area. Subsequent editions of the National Fire Code in 1951, 1953, and 1956, by the National Board of Fire Underwriters were adopted to update the local ordinances. Other codes such as the National Electrical Code, American Insurance Association and many National Fire Protection Association standards followed.  

After Chief Wilbur Bills was appointed in 1957 the codes and their enforcement was expanded. A Fire Fighter was appointed each day to increase the number of inspections. In the mid 1970’s two additional full time inspectors were hired with vehicles for all three, to better cover the city. All inspectors and officers completed a course offered by the State Fire Marshals Office and became Certified Fire Inspectors. All high-value structures were inspected four times yearly and low-value buildings twice yearly. By this time the number of inspections exceeded 2,000 annually and the Fire Prevention section of the Insurance Underwriters was recognized as a Class 3 division, which was a very high rating. The rank of Captain had been assigned to the Fire Prevention offices in 1969, and remained until 1986 when the rank of Lt. was assigned. In 1989 the rank of Captain was restored.  

The enforcement of local and state fire prevention codes, flammable liquid, electrical and life safety codes are among the local state and national standards enforced. Captain Lee Vanderbosch heads up that division having assumed those duties in 1986. The use of three full-time inspectors was abandoned in 1982 in favor of one person from shift used each day.

Fire Prevention has risen to receive the respect of which it deserves. Its importance to the overall purpose of the Fire Department is held in high regard.

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