• Fire Marshall News

  • Business Fire Inspections

    At the Fire Marshal’s Office we strive to make the interaction between an inspector and business owner a positive and educational one. Our goal is to ensure all businesses provide a safe environment that is free from the risks associated with fire. The Fire Marshal’s Office cannot meet this goal alone. Through our relationships with business owners we aim to create shared objectives that allow inspectors and business owners to create the safest space possible. 
    The Fire Marshal’s Office conducts periodic fire prevention inspections to help assess and reduce potential fire and life safety hazards. Each business is inspected for compliance with codes, standards, and local regulations. The benefits of these inspections extend not only to customers and visitors, but also to employees and the life of your business. 
    We encourage business owners to prepare for their scheduled inspection in order to reduce the time needed for the inspection and assist in producing increasingly positive results over time. When preparing for an inspection it may be helpful to remember the three most common items noted during fire prevention inspections. Checking and correcting items periodically throughout the year can reduce preparation time prior to the inspection, promote a safer environment, and minimize costly business interruptions. 
    Blocked or improperly maintained exits or means of egress: Maintaining a clear way in and out of the business is critical to providing proper life safety in your building. All exit doors must always be accessible and open properly. Areas such as stairways and corridors, which have features like fire doors, self-closing devices, releasing mechanisms, and latches must have been installed properly and maintained to operate properly. Combustible materials cannot be stored in any portion of the means of egress, and storage cannot reduce the required width or block exits.
    Improperly maintained fire and life safety equipment: Maintenance of fire and life safety equipment, such as emergency lighting, exit signs, and fire extinguishers is crucial. In the case of restaurants, all of the cooking appliances must be located underneath a hood system which is protected by an extinguishing system. This hood and extinguishing system must be maintained and cleaned by authorized personnel at regular intervals.
    Improper storage of combustible materials: Combustibles must be maintained in an orderly fashion, away from flame-producing appliances, and at least 18-inches below the fire sprinklers. Any combustible or flammable liquids must be in approved containers and storage cabinets. There are specific limits on the amount of combustible and flammable liquids by type of occupancy, as well as specific storage arrangements.
    Following an inspection, the fire inspector provides a written report to the business owner and review each item that needs to be addressed. A follow-up inspection is scheduled, if necessary. The Fire Marshal’s Office and its inspectors are committed to working with business or property owners to get each space to point where all safety needs are met. We understand that more complex or expensive repairs may take time and we work to develop solutions.
    The Fire Marshal's Office website has additional information, including a checklist that provides a basis for the types of things the fire inspector will look for during the inspection. If you have any questions about an upcoming inspection or any fire prevention related matters, please contact Battalion Chief John Walser at (703) 246-4889 or john.walser@fairfaxcounty.gov
  • Fire Prevention: Working to Ensure a Safe Community

    The adopted vision of the Fire Prevention Division is, “Successful community and industry partnerships to eliminate loss of life and property due to fire and environmental hazards.”  
    In order to realize this vision, the Fire Prevention Division adopted the following Mission Statement:
    The Fire Prevention Division is committed to promoting safety from fire and other hazards through:
    Fostering professional relationships with internal and external customers.
    Examining proposals, plans, and construction documents.
    Observing initial and recurring life safety systems performance tests.
    Community education and the promotion of sound life safety practices through building and systems inspections and code compliance.  
    Investigating origin and cause for fires and explosions.
    Ensuring proper storage, use and handling of hazardous materials through education, awareness and enforcement.
    Performing legislative oversight and participating in legislative processes.
    Participating in the development of model codes and standards.
    Practicing sound fiscal and records management.
    The Fire Prevention Division works toward this vision and achieves its mission by ensuring compliance with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), Statewide Fire Prevention Code (SFPC), and portions of the Criminal Code of Virginia.  The two primary functions of the Fire Prevention Division are regulatory and investigative in nature.  The Fire Prevention Division consists of two business service areas:  Fire Prevention Services and Fire and Hazardous Materials Investigative Services.  Fire Prevention Services is the section that is focused on preventing fires and their impact when they do occur.   
    Fire Prevention Services consists of the Fire Inspections, Fire Protection Systems Testing, Engineering Plans Review, and Revenue/Records Branches.  These branches are tasked with responsibilities that are primarily regulatory in nature.  This includes conducting site inspections, issuing operational permits, witnessing tests of fire protection and suppression systems, conducting plans review, collecting fees, and maintaining records for these administrative functions.  
    So far this year, there have been 24 activations of a fire protection system in Fairfax County.  These include fire alarm activations which alert occupants to a fire or a sprinkler activation, which not only alerts occupants to a fire, but actively operates to control the fire.  When these systems work properly, damage to the building and contents is limited.  More importantly, the potential for injury and death to our community members and firefighters drop dramatically.  
    The work that the members in Fire Prevention Services conduct helps to ensure these systems work properly.  From plan review of the fire protection system which ensures proper design, acceptance testing of the installed system, to periodic re-testing of the fire protection systems and inspections of the property.  These inspections are important to provide safety education so that the chance of fire is minimized and lessen the impact if one does occur.  
    All of the actions our team takes contribute to the safety of your community.  We look forward to working with you toward this important goal.