County fire inspectors moved to Building Department on split vote

Clark County commissioners voted 4-3 Tuesday to merge the Fire Prevention Bureau with the Building Department, putting the bureau’s staff under the authority of building official Ron Lynn instead of Fire Chief Bertral Washington.

The merger was pitched by county management as a way to boost efficiency within the Fire Prevention Bureau.

It also will put much of the Fire Prevention staff in the Building Department’s offices so customers don’t have to go to two locations for fire and building permits.

The plan drew criticism from fire inspectors, who said it will reduce communication between inspectors and fire suppression crews and cut into the fire chief’s authority needed to make code decisions affecting safety and the systems firefighters rely on for battling blazes.

Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani, Tom Collins and Lawrence Weekly voted against the proposal. Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak and Commissioners Larry Brown, Mary Beth Scow and Susan Brager supported it.

Brown said there are good arguments on both sides and noted that the county can undo the change later if it doesn’t work out.

Giunchigliani said she was concerned about the proposal not having a clear, measurable goal outlining the intended outcome.

“If you want to accomplish change, you have to do it so it’s measurable,” she said.

Fire inspectors spoke at the meeting against the change and defended their work routines following a county report that showed inspector vehicles are out in the field for an average of about four hours during a 10-hour shift, based on GPS data.

Martin Casillas said much of the work requires looking over reports, inputting data and reviewing inspection records.

“A lot of hours are spent doing research,” he said.

The county has moved 32 Fire Prevention staff to the Building Department’s location at 4701 W. Russell Road, including plan checkers, engineers, administrative staff and a hydrant technician. The county is still studying whether to move all or some of the remaining 47 staff, which includes 42 inspectors based in fire stations.

The merger is guided by a memorandum of understanding between the fire and building departments.

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