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Monday, May 2, 2016

GFD gets new fire inspector as efforts continue to pay off

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Christy Glass
Where there's smoke, there's fire, the old saying goes, and keeping either of those from occurring is an ongoing priority for the City of Greencastle and its fire officials.

Consequently, as expected, fire inspections continue to be a valuable resource in keeping Greencastle free of major business and commercial structure fires in recent years, city officials have observed recently.

First, the City Council took note of Fire Chief Bill Newgent's December and January inspection reports, spotting a couple of buildings that failed inspections both times and seeing that all 15 structures inspected so far in January were listed as failing.

Businesses and property owners have 30 days to correct any violations, Chief Newgent told the inquisitive City Council.

Sometimes, however, cases can require more time because of fiscal or physical constraints involved in the necessary repairs or modifications.

"What happens if they fail to correct the problem?" Councilor Jinsie Bingham asked.

"We call in the mayor," Newgent smiled, knowing that such duties can legally fall to the mayor by statute.

"All the mayors have always backed the fire department 100 percent," the chief added. "There have been situations where it's gotten a little hairy but it's always worked out."

And if it doesn't work out, the non-compliance issue can always be taken to court if necessary, he noted.

Regardless, it is all taken quite seriously, Chief Newgent told the Council, explaining that fire inspection findings have even resulted in the necessity to close a business until proper repairs can be made.

"There's no question," Newgent said, "we've been able to prevent fires in our community and our business structures because of our inspections."

Newgent, who has been fire chief for 13 years, recalled that while he was assistant chief, the City Hall mandate was that all businesses be inspected within two years.

"Now we're real close to doing that in one year," he stressed, adding that the ambitious new timetable includes even inspecting the buildings at DePauw University.

Not only has the effort been spurred by well-trained inspectors within the fire department but by an informed public knowing what to expect when the inspectors come, Newgent noted.

None of that is expected to change with a new fire inspector.

The Greencastle Board of Public Works and Safety, acting unanimously on a recommendation from Chief Newgent, has selected firefighter Christy Glass as the department's new fire inspector and city safety officer.

She succeeds John McPherson, who has retired from the department.

The selection of Glass comes after the position was opened to applicants within the fire department. Two candidates emerged and Glass became the chief's recommendation.

Glass's starting date will be left open due to staffing arrangements within the department, Newgent said. It could be a couple of months before she goes fulltime as inspector, he said.

While Glass undergoes training for her new position, the Fire Department has enlisted the services of local contractor Donnie Watson on a part-time basis for 20 hours per week.

What Watson doesn't do in that timeframe, Chief Newgent and Assistant Chief Jeff Mace will likely take care of, the Board of Works was told.

Glass moving to inspector opens a firefighter position on the GFD roster. The position will be offered initially to candidates among volunteer firefighters and part-time department employees before it is opened to the general public, the board noted.

No timetable was announced on filling the firefighter position.

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