October is Fire Prevention Month. Of course, at the Roswell Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division fire prevention is an everyday focus. The Fire Prevention Division consists of four employees, the Fire Marshal, two Deputy Fire Marshals and a Fire Code Inspector. Here is some insight from two members of this division.
James Higgins- Deputy Fire Marshal
James Higgins recently stepped into the position of deputy fire marshal. You could say that emergency services (Fire, Police and EMS) called him, as his family members have served in emergency service roles as far back as the early 1900s. His own road to fire-prevention work began in August 2001 when Higgins became a certified firefighter. He has served in several different capacities within the fire department as a Fire Apparatus Operator, Lieutenant, Battalion Chief (as needed) and now in Fire Prevention.
His usual responsibilities are ensuring businesses are following fire codes, investigating the cause and origin of fires, and educating Roswell citizens in order to help promote fire prevention. At the heart of his day-to-day tasks is ensuring public safety. Conducting public presentations is one of the biggest responsibilities of the Fire Prevention Division. The most attentive and receptive audience, Higgins believes, is grade-school children. In his opinion, they “respond the best to fire prevention safety.” Higgins’ top prevention tips for the children are to not play with fire and always dial 911 in case of an emergency.
Matt Miller- Fire Marshal/ Interim Fire Chief
Fire Marshal Matt Miller can give you even more insight on not just fire prevention but the fire department as a whole because he is currently wearing two very important hats. In addition to his regular role as Fire Marshal, which he stepped into in 2015, he is serving as Interim Fire Chief these days.
Miller is the vice president of the New Mexico International Association of Arson Investigators Chapter and serves on the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee for the organization’s Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations.
Working in fire safety was an early calling for Miller. At age 5, he knew he would grow up to become a fireman. Miller’s mother humorously predicted her son would either be a fireman or an arsonist. At age 26, Miller found his way to the Roswell Fire Department and ended up on the right side of the law, not only as a firefighter but specifically dealing in fire prevention.
Day-to-day responsibilities look a little different for him as he fills the roles of both Fire Marshal and Fire Chief. As Fire Marshal, he oversees life- and fire-safety inspections in local buildings, whether it is new construction or other sites requiring permits. He rotates with the department’s Deputy Fire Marshals to cover origin and cause investigations when fires occur. Overseeing fire-prevention education and safety talks designed for the public and businesses in the community are a major component in his work. He agrees with Deputy Marshal Higgins that school-aged kids are the most receptive to the lessons they teach.
Miller works at the local, state and national level to promote education and training within the fire investigations field and the continuation of the professional and scientific approach to determining the “where and why” of fires. His biggest effort in fire prevention is the adherence to fire- and life-safety codes. Providing and enforcing those safety codes help keep everyone in the community safe.
Miller’s number-one tip for fire safety connects to this year’s focus for National Fire Prevention Week – kitchen fires. Miller says “cooking fires are the number-one cause of fires every year in the United States.” He encourages everyone to be careful when cooking and when around any fire and combustible materials.
Though relatively small, the Fire Prevention Division works hard to ensure the safety of Roswell residents through education and outreach, inspections, and when needed, fire investigations.
Check back later this month on the Roswell Fire Department Facebook page for a fire-safety video.