State Fire Marshal
Function: Investigation of Fires. Upon the request of the mayor of any city or village, or of the chief of a fire department thereof, or of the clerk of any town, or of any fire insurance company or its general agent, the state fire marshal shall forthwith investigate the origin, cause and circumstances of any fire occurring within the state, whereby property has been destroyed or damaged, and shall ascertain if possible whether the same was the result of carelessness or design.
The fire marshal's office was created by the legislature in 1905 (Laws 1905 c331). The fire marshal reported to the insurance commissioner and was charged with enforcing laws relating to fire prevention, the storage, sale, and use of combustibles and explosives, and the adequacy of exits in buildings in which people congregate; investigating fires of a suspicious nature; prosecuting cases of arson; and compiling statistics.
An effort was made to consolidate the fire marshal's office and the Department of Insurance in 1917, when the governor appointed the state insurance commissioner to be the fire marshal. In 1919 it was decided that the fire marshal would be appointed by the insurance commissioner. All of the powers of the fire marshal's office were transferred to the Insurance Division of the Commerce Department in 1925, with the insurance commissioner appointed as ex officio state fire marshal (Laws 1925 c426). In 1969 the fire marshal's office was transferred from the Insurance Division to the Department of Public Safety, as the Fire Marshal's Division (Laws 1969 c1129).
In addition to the aforementioned duties this division reviews blueprints of buildings subject to inspection, conducts inspections when requested, licenses dry cleaners and theaters, provides information regarding the state fire code, and conducts an ongoing educational program through bulletins and personal appearances. Most of the work of the division is carried out by nineteen fire and arson inspectors stationed in twelve district offices throughout the state.
State Fire Marshals: 1905-1907; Edward Peterson, 1907-1910; Charles E. Keller, 1911-1916; Robert W. Hargadine, 1917-1918; John B. Sanborn, 1919-1920 (Insurance Commissioner); George H. Nettleton, 1921-1924; Burton L. Kingsley, 1925 (Insurance Commissioner, 1925-1970); Eugene L. Weber, 1970-1972; Wes Werner, 1972- 1986; Tom Brace (1987-2003), Jerry Rosendahl (2003-2013), and Bruce West (2013-present).
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