Provo fire marshal honored as firefighter of the year
PROVO -- As the crowds gathered outside the burning Provo Tabernacle in December, many people simply saw an iconic and treasured building consumed in flame. But Provo city fire marshal Lynn Schofield saw something more. When he arrived at the fire, just before 3 a.m., he noticed that the flames were mostly visible in the second story windows. As the roof gave way, Schofield also noticed the smoke was black.
Those details helped Schofield reconstruct what happened. The flames in the second story windows indicated that the fire began high up in the building. The black smoke suggested that the fire had burned for a long time before it was noticed and had run out of oxygen at some point. Before crews had even finished dousing the flames, Schofield was piecing together the story of what destroyed the structure.
Schofield's investigation later confirmed his initial suspicions about the fire, and earlier this month that investigation as well as others earned Schofield the distinction of becoming the Exchange Club's firefighter of the year. In bestowing the honor on Schofield, the club -- which is a service organization -- cited the tabernacle fire investigation, Schofield's work on the double fatality fire at the Boulders Apartments in March, his teaching at UVU and a variety of other roles and responsibilities.
The award comes at the conclusion of an extraordinarily busy year for Schofield. As the city fire marshal, Schofield is tasked with investigating and explaining major fires. He also has to perform those duties on top of other responsibilities, such as ensuring that businesses and public buildings are compliant with fire codes and have the proper equipment. For the first few months of 2011, he was busier than ever.
"It was a huge undertaking," Schofield said of the tabernacle fire investigation.
Schofield characterized the tabernacle fire as the most significant fire in the county's history, which was further complicated by other fires breaking out in Provo while he conducted the investigation.
The path that put Schofield on the front lines of the investigation began years ago, when he realized he wanted to fight fires.
"I've always wanted to do this, for as long as I can remember," he said.
Schofield began his career volunteering in the 1980s as an EMT. He later spent five years in the Orem fire reserve, worked as a paramedic in Provo and eventually became a truck captain in Provo. In 2009, Schofield's boss told him he was being promoted to fire marshal.
Along the way, Schofield has racked up a series of degrees, beginning with an associate of fire science from UVSC and concluding with a master's in public administration from BYU. In between, he earned numerous other degrees and certifications, which Provo Fire Deputy Chief Gary Jolley said is typical of Schofield.
"He likes to be educated," Jolley said.
Schofield now teaches at UVU as well, but for all his academic accomplishments, he said his most valuable training has been on the job.
"We all learned lessons from that fire," Schofield said of the tabernacle blaze. "It was sad and it was a tragedy, but we learned from the event. The how and why leads to how we can prevent that in the future."
And Schofield's job constantly requires him to look to the future. He recalled recently having to tell members of a local church that they would have to install sprinklers in their gymnasium, which would require a significant financial investment. The interaction typified the delicate balancing act between safety, public interest and politics Schofield is required to perform, but in the end it worked out for the better.
"We're still friends," Schofield explained.
Part of Schofield's success likely derives from his approach to his job. Jolley said Schofield is consistently busy but "very passionate," and Schofield added that he plans to stick with the job that he has come to enjoy.
"There's kind of an art to doing the fire marshal thing," Schofield said. "And we really want to keep people in Provo safe."
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11-24-2011, 04:06 PM #1
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