Charlottesville is a thriving community and was recognized in 2004 as the "Best Place to Live in America" and is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and influenced by the philosophies of Thomas Jefferson. This recognition has resulted in housing and business growth. Key to the safety of buildings, the Fire Marshal's office coordinates building safety and code enforcement with the building inspector and neighborhood development services. The fire marshal works directly with fire suppression forces and coordinates business fire safety inspections. Home safety inspections are also done upon request.
In Charlottesville, firefighters are directly involved with public safety education and fire prevention inspections. Unfortunately, fire prevention and safety education cannot always keep people from harm's way. When prevention and education fail, firefighting resources become the next level of defense to protect life and property. Charlottesville staffs it engines and ladder companies with a minimum of three persons, responds to residential structure fires with a minimum response of five engines, one ladder company and a battalion chief for a minimum complement of 19 persons. Within the city, fire units are able to respond to emergencies within five minutes 90-percent of the time. During the last five years, there have been three successful life-saving rescues made from residential structure fires.
Pulling It All Together
Some 33 years ago, Chief Julian Taliaferro began the process of building a "World Class" fire department. With an eye on being the best, he worked to develop a department that would become and is nationally recognized. The Charlottesville Fire Department achieved an ISO Class Rating of 2 (1 being the best) and became an Internationally Accredited fire department through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). The department also has newly replaced protective clothing, SCBA and every fire unit is equipped with at least thermal image camera.
ISO and Accreditation are external objective performance measurement tools that help departments understand its present capabilities and assist in the development of future improvements. ISO is more focused on specific fire suppression characteristics where Accreditation is a more diverse and thorough evaluation of the entire fire department.
Beyond The Fire Department
The Charlottesville Fire Department is very proud of its accomplishments. That success is also recognition of other agencies that have supported the fire department. The City's Water department is one of the best in the country with excellent fire hydrant distribution and an ISO Water Class rating of 1. The City's Neighborhood Development Services and Building Official's office have been active partners insuring a safe building initiative through adoption of effective building codes and code enforcement. The regional Emergency Communications/911 Center provides the vital link with citizens and provides effective regional public safety communications system.
The partnership with the City Police Department (CPD) is very effective in the area of fire/arson investigation. CFD's Fire Marshal works directly with CPD's investigative/forensic division. This is paramount to identifying trends and/or arson situations and for the effective mitigation of identified problem trends.
The Final Note - It's The People
At the end of every day, it is the men and women of the Charlottesville Fire Department who must be credited with the success that the department has enjoyed. The dedicated personnel at the Charlottesville Fire Department always go an extra mile to serve the citizens of Charlottesville - and it shows!
Reducing residential fire deaths is a lofty but achievable goal - if every fire department accepts the challenge and takes steps to do the very best that it can.