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Latest News: Passing of House Bill Grants Fire Investigators Law Enforcement Authority

Annapolis, MD –Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) Fire Investigation Division was granted the ability to earn specific law enforcement powers with the passing of House Bill 1343.  By decree of the Howard County Fire Code, HCDFRS is responsible to investigate the origin and cause of fires in the County.

HCDFRS and the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) have a close working relationship when investigating fires.  HCDFRS has designated investigators that currently concentrate on origin and cause of the fire while HCPD has designated Arson Detectives that concentrate on any criminal nexus. This close working relationship will continue.  With the passing of this bill, the Fire Investigators will now have the ability to attend the HCPD police academy and afford them law enforcement abilities when applying the Fire Laws of Maryland.

“It’s our goal to ensure our public safety departments are well equipped to continue to perform their duties at the highest level possible,” said Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman.  “Fire Investigation often deals with criminal activity and the passing of this bill will continue to keep our community safe.”

The training that the investigators will be going through will be the full HCPD academy, after which they will be certified as Police Officers by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission.  While the Fire Investigators will be certified officers, their enforcement authority will be restricted to the Fire Laws of Maryland.  The additional training and certification will allow the fire investigators to handle some of the smaller incidents independently while possibly freeing up the police detectives for other calls.

 “A top priority for our first responders is ensuring their safety,” said Fire Chief John S. Butler.  “The passing of this bill will allow our Fire Investigators to protect themselves while working potential criminal-related incidents and provide after-hours code enforcement by allowing them to carry a firearm in accordance with applicable laws and training.”

Howard County Fire Investigators will be at a level equivalent of investigators across the state that already have law enforcement powers. 

To view House Bill 1343 in its entirety, please visit: goo.gl/xuNSP0

For additional information, please call the media line: 410-313-6039.

Photo courtesy of Rick Lippenholz

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