Deputy chief state fire marshal likes a challenge

March 18, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

Bruce Shafer said he made the move from police officer to fire marshal in the mid-1990s because he wanted to take on a challenge.

Now, sitting in his new office after being named deputy chief state fire marshal, Shafer's current challenge seems to be figuring out how to transfer a phone call.

"A new horizon, a new challenge," he said. "There's a challenge every day."

Shafer has been a deputy state fire marshal for nine and a half years in Washington County, investigating fires and working on the state bomb squad. Shafer was acting in his new position, which includes overseeing fire marshals and inspectors in the Western Region, since September when the former deputy chief, Allen Gosnell, was transferred.


Shafer, a Cumberland, Md., resident, spends about three days a week at the Jonathan Street office in Hagerstown and works the rest of the week out of offices in Allegany and Garrett counties, which are under his supervision.

He now watches over the fire investigations and fire safety inspections of five deputies, two inspectors, an administrative specialist and a fire protection engineer. Although most of his work is now done at a desk, Shafer said he will still go out on serious fires and continue his work as a technician on the state bomb squad.

He's working more with the general public now, answering people's questions about fire codes.

"Being the supervisor, you touch base with everybody in the region," he said.

Shafer is not short on contacts. He was a Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy for eight years before taking a job as a fire marshal. Before that, he worked in several other police departments in the state, including Hancock's, since 1977.

Fire inspections are more specialized than police work, he said.

Shafer said he enjoys the challenge of arriving at the scene of a fire, knowing that most of the evidence likely is burned and then being able to figure out what caused the blaze.

"Most of your evidence is destroyed because of the fire, you have to hunt for it," he said.

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