Most people automatically imagine a fire truck, ambulance, or just big red vehicles with red lights and sirens when they think of a fire department. While it is often the most obvious function, responding to emergencies is not the complete description of the Merrimack Fire Department. A prominent "behind the scenes" function at the Merrimack Fire Department is the Office of the Fire Marshal, Fire Prevention Division. While not inclusive, that title captures the intent of this division. The major functions are broken down below;
All division staff (inspectors) are certified Fire Inspectors through the New Hampshire Fire Academy. This aspect of fire prevention is most important. It has been said that the safest fire is one that never happens. Inspections cover a wide variety of occupancies. They can vary from a storefront down town, to a factory such as Anheuser Busch, or Fidelity. It also includes extremely hazardous sites (known as EHS sites) to target hazards identified by the Fire Department Administration within the community. The focus of an inspection is to identify and correct problems that may lead to a fire, delay notification of a fire (Fire Alarm System), and to remove any obstacles that may impede or block an emergency egress path from a building resulting in a delay for the occupants from exiting the building. Examples of these areas of concern may include combustibles (paper, boxes, wood) stored near the furnace or water heater. A fire alarm system or sprinkler system that has not been maintained or working properly, and storage of boxes, chairs, ladders, boards in an exit way for any amount of time. If we could predict when a fire was to occur the job of the fire inspector would be rather slow, but fire happens without notice and travels faster than most people can imagine.
Each inspector, Chief Officer, Fire Officer and firefighter of the Merrimack Fire Department is trained to investigate fires and to determine its cause and origin. Sometimes this is difficult due to the amount of damage caused by the fire, but through a systematic investigation and sometimes with the help of the Merrimack Police Department and the State of New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s Office (State Fire Investigators) the cause of the fire will be determined. That said, Merrimack Fire Department has a solve rate above the national average and a high conviction rate for those accused of arson, and with that being said the case will not be closed until the case is solved.
The Fire Prevention Division is active in public education. The division offers programs for seniors, local civic groups and any organization that request a speaker. One of our goals is to reach the youth of the town and create a well-informed generation. Each year the Fire Prevention Division works with the Fire Suppression crews to insure that each elementary school in Merrimack is provided with a fire prevention program. Each student meets the firefighters, learns life saving techniques and receives literature to take home. Other programs include the annual Junior Fire Muster, the High School Senior Education Program for Alcohol use when driving, fire and police open house programs along with other community assistance projects.