MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon Fire Department’s Fire Inspector Terry Davis has been a police officer as long as he has been a firefighter. In some regards, the training is very similar, especially when it comes to investigations. That is just one reason why Fire Chief Chris Menapace is asking Mount Vernon City Council for the authority to allow Davis, as a designee, to investigate arsons from a criminal aspect, make an arrest when warranted, request a search warrant and issue misdemeanor citations for open burns.
Currently, when Menapace has reason to believe the cause of a fire is suspicious, he turns the scene over to Davis to investigate. If Davis agrees, a detective from the Mount Vernon Police Department is called in to work with Davis on the case.
If proposed legislation is approved, Menapace will be able to designate Davis with the power to utilize his position to the fullest extent.
“This will free up the need for a police department detective — unless there is some other kind of wrong doing that is uncovered,” Menapace told council during a committee meeting Monday evening.
City Law Director Bill Smith said the legislation is merely a “better utilization of resources” that allows the fire department to use the expertise it has to investigate suspicious fires.
In a letter addressed to council, MVPD Chief Mike Merrilees expressed his support of the legislation and told council that the fire and police departments work well together, but he feels the legislation is necessary to bridge the gap that keeps the fire department just on the fringe of doing all that it can do during arson investigations.
“This ordinance was brought up to close a loophole that does not allow a representative of the fire department to issue certain citations or even be of greater use in arson investigations,” Merrilees said.