When most people think of fire safety, they may think of fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and hoses dousing blazes.
But fire safety in Kilgore involves a wide array of activities. That’s where Kilgore Fire Marshal Brandon Bigos comes in.
Bigos shared some details about his job to Kilgore Lions Club Thursday.
“Some of the things that I do in there, probably people don’t know,” said Bigos, who has worked for the city for 22 years, has been fire marshal for 9 nine years and has worked in the fire marshal’s office for 14 years.
“Other than going into businesses and inspecting them and saying ‘hey, your fire extinguisher is out of date’ or your fire suppression system is out of date, I also go into businesses and…the city requires certain things (during renovations) and that’s part of my job, to make sure those things are implemented.”
Bigos makes sure local businesses are up-to-date on their inspections when they install new items, such as stoves.
“Those type of things have to have certain types of fire protection and building codes and things like that. I do that enforcement part.”
Bigos joked this part of his job was the one which people most frequently get irritated about.
“They never want to get in trouble by me because I can write tickets and I can put you in jail. I try not to do that but, on occasion, I do have to write them.”
A fire marshal works in two worlds: working to make sure buildings are safe from fire hazards and also as a law enforcement officer.
“Fire marshals straddle the line between firefighting and police work, working primarily in fire service, investigating the causes of fires and enforcing the fire code. Their training and responsibilities build upon those of fire investigators, but focus much more on the law enforcement aspect of the job,” according to FireScience.org.
As a fire marshal, Bigos serves as the record-keeper for all fire incidents to which Kilgore Fired Department responds. Last year, that meant keeping records on nearly 2,400 fire department calls both in and outside the city.
Bigos also investigates fires as a regular part of his job.
“I determine the origin and cause. Sometimes that is easy for me and sometimes that is very difficult. It just depends on how bad it burned and so forth. There’s quite a bit of knowledge that I had to accumulate over time in order to do that. It’s not something where I can take a class and get certified. In order to determine origin and cause, sometimes that takes years of experience.”
Bigos cited mentors and ATF agents who helped him develop his skills.
He also coordinates with the city’s water department to maintain all 987 fire hydrants in the city of Kilgore. Recently, he oversaw a city plan to install newer, more durable hydrants throughout the city. He recently took a call from the fire marshal of the Austin Fire Department about the new hydrants, who was so impressed he may implement a similar model in Austin, Bigos said.
“I take that as a big positive, that instead of behind the curve, we’re ahead of the curve. People are looking at the city of Kilgore for new innovations and things like that.”
Bigos, who sits on the board of Building Development Services and Addressing, also works with Carol Wyndham, Planning and Zoning Director, to coordinate on projects within the city to fix issues with residential and commercial addresses or street names. The city recently ran into such an issue on Birdsong Street.
He inspects new buildings and building additions, such as the new developments at Synergy Park, where Wagner Tuning is installing a production facility and Orgill is building an expansion.
Bigos makes sure water lines at these facilities are properly installed and tested. He also enforces building codes, making sure residents are following the rules at home, such as ensuring homeowners aren’t illegally renting out rooms in homes not designated for that purpose.
While his skills and experience are extensive (he’s triple-certified as an EMS, fire department specialist and law enforcement officer), Bigos can’t be aware of every issue in the city at once. He relies on information from citizens to enforce fire and building codes.
“We can’t catch everything. We rely on citizens to call in and say ‘hey, I’ve been seeing a lot of traffic next door. There’s five or six cars over there,’” in the case of a resident illegally renting rooms in their home.
To contact the fire marshal’s office, call 903-988-4114.