“I want to take this on full time,” said James Barrie. “It’s been my passion since I was a kid.”
To make that possible, the state-certified fire inspector and investigator is charging a fee for fire inspections. But Barrie said that will eventually translate to lower fire insurance rates for property owners in both Beeville and Bee County.
“Basically, I’ve created a Beeville and Bee County Fire Marshal’s office,” Barrie said.
But to do that, Barrie has had to give up a job with the Texas Forest Service as a regional fire coordinator.
Although the county and city provide a monthly stipend for the service, the combined salary of $275 a month is not a living wage.
That is where the charge for the fire inspections comes into the picture.
The inspection fee pays the salary, operating costs, equipment, training and certification that Barrie needs to maintain the full-time office.
Barrie comes to the position with plenty of training and experience. A certified law enforcement officer, he also has certifications for conducting other fire safety services. He is also a certified fire and arson investigator.
He was sent to Beeville by the Forest Service two years ago.
“Everybody’s been very receptive so far and accepted the charges,” Barrie said about the fee for the fire inspections.
But the good thing about having a full-time fire marshal and regular inspections is that property owners should be saving money on their fire insurance coverage.
Barrie said he inspects the plans for new buildings to check on the sprinkler and alarm systems.
“We’ve adopted a fire code,” he said. That will help bring down the Insurance Service Organize rating numbers for the city and county.
Right now, buildings in the city have a “five” ISO rating and buildings in the county have an “eight” ISO rating.
The rating is based on a number of factors like the quality of the fire department and its equipment, availability of fire hydrants and other amenities.
The Beeville Volunteer Fire Department is responsible for bringing those ratings down for property owners.
Another good aspect to the fee is that the expenses for Barrie’s salary, operating costs, equipment, training and certifications are all funded without any increases in property taxes.
County Judge David Silva said he thinks the change to a full-time fire marshal is a good thing for the county.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.