Keeping Poulsbo up to code

POULSBO — Making sure that new and old buildings meet city fire codes takes up 90 percent of Jerry Cooper’s time at the Poulsbo Fire Department.

The Deputy Fire Marshal will be even busier in the next couple years as Little Norway continues to grow through the addition small and large businesses.

The Poulsbo Fire Department recently signed an interlocal agreement with the City of Poulsbo for Cooper to continue providing fire services to the city.

While PFD has been performing fire inspections and other fire prevention duties for the city for three years, the new agreement makes it a surefire deal.

When the city was annexed into the fire district in 1999, Poulsbo and PFD signed a three-year agreement for the fire district to provide services within the city boundaries.

The agreement expired in 2003 and a new agreement was drawn up, commencing on Jan. 1, 2004. Under this agreement, PFD will provide services including fire investigations; testing of sprinkler systems; occupancy inspections; wood stove inspections; issuance and enforcement of burn permits; inspection of commercial burns; and testing of fire alarm systems.

The agreement is good until either party requests termination of the services.

Cooper, who has been the Deputy Fire Marshal for PFD for 10 years, said most of his time is spent making sure buildings within the city are outfitted with proper fire prevention devices.

“What we try and do is we make sure these systems get put in buildings,” Cooper said, referring to sprinkler, fire alarm and fire suppression systems.

When a new building is set to be constructed within the city, Cooper works with the developer every step of the way, making sure fire codes are followed.

“Jerry has been able to advise developers the benefits of putting in early detection systems when it wasn’t necessarily required by code,” said PFD Chief Jim Shields.

Cooper also retrofits older buildings with fire prevention systems.

“A large percentages of businesses that have a fire, even if they have insurance, the business goes under because they are not able to regenerate their customers,” Shields said. “We try and talk people in installing early detection systems even when it’s not required.”

When construction begins, Cooper is constantly on the site, making sure the systems and other fire prevention equipment are installed properly. Once the building is complete, he conducts trials on every aspect regarding fire codes, including testing water hydrant pressure and fire flow.

Once he sees that the new building meets the codes, he signs it off for building occupancy.

But Cooper’s job doesn’t stop there, as the building will be inspected annually to make sure codes are still intact. He also performs inspections when the building changes occupancy.

All the codes he enforces are adopted by the city, Shields said. Cooper is also trying to get the county and city codes in sync, as he also does inspections in the unincorporated areas of the fire district.

With the new development going up around Poulsbo, Cooper said he’s likely in for a busy few years.

Ten new buildings are going up on 10th Avenue across from PFD headquarters, as well as a new building next to Central Market. Cooper will also conduct the inspections for developments at the Olhava complex, a challenge he knows he will get through.

“It’s going to occupy a lot of my time,” he said. “We’ll make it.”

Cooper commended the department’s strong ties with Poulsbo.

“We have a close working relationship with the city,” he said. “We have a good relationship — a good working agreement.”

Cooper joked that he has never left the area. He was born in the Port Gamble Hospital, went to North Kitsap High School and lived in Poulsbo.

While he has been in fire service for 40 years, Cooper joined Poulsbo Fire in 1973 as volunteer firefighter and was hired full-time in 1985 as a fire inspector, firefighter and emergency medical technical. He became the Deputy Fire Marshal in 1993.

“The job has built and grown,” he said, noting the work is probably more than one person should be handling.

However, the best part of the job is working with the people, he said. “I love people, working with customers,” he said. “I’m trying to satisfy. I’m here to help people.”

“Jerry is an expert in his business, he is an expert in codes,” Shields added. “He knows them inside out backwards and forwards, he makes things a lot easier. He knows the answers.”

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