The Fire Prevention Bureau was started on January 1st, 1923 under the direction of Assistant Chief E.A. Westra and one assigned Fire Inspector. The rapid growth of the City of Miami followed by World War II changed this Division and a total of 10 inspectors were assigned to the bureau. However, it was not until 1966 when ten people died in a residential fire involving an overturned portable kerosene heater, that the City Administration passed a fire code. Ordinance No. 7431 became the Fire Protection Chapter of the City Charter.
Presently, the Fire Prevention Bureau enforces extensive state and local fire and life safety codes. The Fire Prevention Bureau is the enforcement arm of the Fire Chief concerning all Life Safety issues. The Fire Marshal has the tremendous responsibility for prevention of death, injuries, and property loss caused by fire. This is accomplished through the strict enforcement of complex building, fire and life safety codes. The importance of these efforts and the significant life safety improvements that have been made over the last few decades were brought to national attention with the tragic events of September 11th. Both World Trade Center towers withstood the initial impact of a catastrophic event, well beyond what the buildings were designed to handle. Modern building codes, public education, and life safety systems all worked together to allow countless people to evacuate safely.
The City of Miami Fire Prevention Division falls within the Operational Branch of the Department of Fire-Rescue. It consists of a Fire Marshal, Deputy Fire Marshal, Special Assistant to the Fire Marshal, Water Supply/Haz Mat Officer, Special Events Officer, Fire Investigator Unit Coordinator, Fire Investigators, District Supervisors, District Fire Inspectors, Specialty Inspectors, New Construction Inspectors, Plans Reviewers, and Administrative Assistants. District Inspectors handle numerous referrals from various sources including Fire Companies, Hazard Warning Tags, NET Offices, other city departments, and the general public. In addition, the Fire Prevention Bureau provides the public with fire prevention and life safety information and administers the Certificate of Use renewal program. The program provides for annual inspections of all existing buildings for the required life safety code violations.
In 2014, the Fire Prevention Bureau was faced with the tremendous challenge of massive retirements and vacancies, including critical positions such as: The Fire Marshal, Deputy Fire Marshal, Special Assistant to the Fire Marshal, Special Events Coordinator, the entire Plans Review Section, Specialty Inspector to Hospitals and Institutions, the remaining two New Construction Inspectors, and numerous senior inspectors. However, with the exit of institutional knowledge and experience entered a cadre of youth and exuberance. Evidence of this has been demonstrated through the following significant accomplishments:
In 2014, the Fire Prevention Bureau assigned, conducted, and completed 24,893 Certificate of Use inspections, inspecting the entire City of Miami for the first time since 2008. In addition, they conducted 4,181 New Certificate of Use inspections, 251 Department of Children and Families Day Care inspections, referred 781 business to Code Compliance for not having a Certificate of Use, received 250 Hazard Warning Tags via inter-office mail, and received 530 referrals and Hazard Tags via email. These annual Life Safety inspections ensure the safety of our citizens, visitors, and firefighters of the City of Miami.
This section of the Fire Prevention Bureau consists of a specialty inspector that performs more complex inspections that require specialized duties, technical knowledge, and experience. These inspections include all Hospitals and Institutions, Educational Facilities and its Ancillary Buildings, and Code Enforcement. In 2014 this section conducted 1,044 Hospital and Institution specialty inspections, 127 Public Education Facilities were inspected, 74 Miami-Dade Public Schools were inspected, 17 Miami-Dade College Facilities were inspected, and 36 private tenant inspections were conducted.
The Fire Plans Examiners review all plans for new construction and remodeling done throughout the City of Miami. They are specifically responsible for reviewing fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler systems, smoke evacuation systems, fire pumps, standpipes, generators, and tank removals and installations. In addition, they conduct onsite inspections, review special event site plans, and conduct special consultation reviews. In 2014 this section reviewed 5,993 plans, 163 Special Events plans, and conducted 166 consultation reviews.
New Construction conducts highly technical inspections ensuring that all phases of buildings under construction meet the required Fire and Life Safety Codes. In 2014, this section conducted 7,825 New Construction inspections, issued approximately 237 Certificate of Occupancies, issued 76 Temporary Certificate of Occupancies, and issued approximately 56 Temporary Certificate of Completions. This section is an integral component of the recent building boom seen in Miami. Some of the larger projects the New Construction Section has recently been a part of include, Brickell City Centre, Panorama Tower, and Brickell House. Brickell City Centre is 5.4 million square feet consisting of 500,000 square feet of retail, 263 hotel rooms, 780 condominium units, and 260,000 square feet of Class- A office space. The total cost of this project is over 1 billion dollars. Panorama Tower is 83 stories tall with 821 luxury apartments, 208 hotel rooms, 100,000 square feet of medically oriented office space, and 50,000 square feet of high end retail space. The total cost of this project is over 800 million dollars. Brickell House stands at 500 feet with 46 floors and features 374 units. What is unique about Brickell House is the fact that it features Miami’s first fully automated robotic parking garage.
The Water Supply/Haz Mat Officer is primarily responsible for ensuring adequate water flow is available by enforcing the Dade County Fire Flow Ordinance. Duties encompass reviewing building and civil plans and conducting water flow tests prior to the issuing of a building permit. In addition, other responsibilities are: placing new hydrants in service, conducting water main improvement projects, water main plan reviews, and plat and street reviews. Also with his dual role as the Haz Mat Officer, he is responsible for the hazardous material inspections consisting of marinas, gas stations, and fuel tank permits. In 2014 he placed 47 new hydrants into service, performed 187 Flow Tests, and reviewed 86 water main extension plans.
This section is dispatched to property fires and conducts follow-up investigations on other types of classified fires. Our Investigation Unit acts as a liaison with various law enforcement and investigative agencies; they train new officers and recruits in origin and cause determination as well as scene preservation. They are responsible for proper evidence collection and chain of custody, contact and follow-up with insurance company representatives in relation to fires, prepare for pre-file conferences and depositions on criminal and civil cases, and prosecute all criminal cases to the full extent of the law. In 2014 the Fire Investigation Unit responded to a total of 375 Building fires. Of these, 34 were classified as Incendiary, 317 as Accidental, and 24 were Undetermined. This unit responded to 156 Vehicle fires, 36 of which were classified as Incendiary, 102 were classified as Accidental, and 18 were Undetermined. They also responded to 244 Trash/Other fires, 24 of these were classified as Incendiary, 176 were considered Accidental, and 44 were Undetermined.
The Special Events Officer is the department's liaison with all event promoters. He is responsible for the proper assignment of all the necessary fire and rescue units and inspectors at off duty events. He reviews and issues assembly, fireworks, and class one special event permits. He is also responsible for coordinating night inspections on entertainment establishments and conducting onsite inspections of special events. He is responsible for staffing major events such as Ultra Music Festival, Calle Ocho, Art Basel, 2015 Formula E Race, Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Miami International Book Fair, Miami International Boat Show, Miami Marathon, and numerous sporting and entertainment events held at the American Airlines Arena and Marlins Park. In 2014 the Special Events Coordinator scheduled 413 Special Events, 975 Fire Prevention Off-Duty Events, and 7 Quality of Life inspections. These Special Events generated over 1.5 million dollars in 2014.