Office of State Fire Marshal - 100 Years LaterThe office of state fire marshal has now been in existence for one hundred years. The job has transitioned and evolved over time but always has served with the same intent. Reporter Amber Schatz speaks with the state's acting fire marshal Ray Lambert.
By: Amber Schatz, KX News
The office of state fire marshal has now been in existence for one hundred years. The job has transitioned and evolved over time but always has served with the same intent. Reporter Amber Schatz speaks with the state's acting fire marshal Ray Lambert.
In his career one fire in particular is burned into Ray Lambert's memory.
Lambert: "There are several fires that will stay with me forever, the one that really sticks out is the investigation work we did in Grand Forks with the flood and the fires to follow, that was certainly a memorable experience in my career."
Investigating fires is just one part of his job. Lambert has been the fire marshal for 13 years. He has 20 years of firefighting experience during his time in the Air Force and 25 years in prevention/inspection work.
Lambert: "Once you go into a fire career it gets into your system, always a firefighter. The inspection work we do goes right back to preventing fires."
The Fire Marshal is a support agency that helps other departments determine the location and cause of fires. Lambert: "Typically fires of significant damage or injury or loss of life we get called in on, fires that have some consequence."
This includes the Lone Steer Motel fire in Steele.
Lambert: "That is still a very active case, it's being pursued as human intervention, will have to leave that one to the court system."
It also includes a devastating fire in Bucyrus.
Lambert: "This particular fire was a wildland fire - we were able to determine this fire's specific location and where it had its origin, but to determine whether it was a cigarette, no determination was made...it's tough to walk away from a fire, where it started, when I say we can't make a determination, it could be a cigarette, or truck, we just can't make that specific call."
Speaking of cigarettes, since 2009 Lambert's office helped make sure all cigarettes sold in the state are fire-safe.
Lambert: "We have in place very good laws with testing and sale of approval of safer cigarettes, we still want to get the message out, they still cause fires."
In his experience however, Lambert says the leading cause of fire has remained the same: cooking-related fires.
Lambert: "You turn the stove on, you walk away and leave it, bad things have a tendency to happen."
Six deputies are on call to respond 24/7, and they also do training and inspection, making sure schools are current on their fire safety codes to prevent future fires
Lambert: "I'd like to think that I've saved lives over my career, that's a feeling that I'll take to my grave."
Lambert just recently learned the office itself is now 100 years old.
Lambert: "The work that we do that was done back 100 years ago, that's why this office came into being, check compliance, and investigate fires. That's still what we do to this day."
Lambert says his office investigates an average of 100 fires annually.