MOUNT VERNON — Despite a contentious committee meeting regarding an ordinance that ultimately gives power to Terry Davis, Mount Vernon Fire Department’s fire inspector, to investigate arsons and make arrests, the measure passed unanimously during the legislative session.
Council members Nancy Vail and John Francis were unhappy with verbiage in the legislation that states, “Such officer may administer oaths, make arrests, and enter, for the purpose of examination, any building, which in his or her opinion, is in danger from fire.”
Both Vail and Francis interpreted the sentence to mean the fire inspector would be able to show up at any doorstep in the city and demand a fire inspection.
“I’m reading he can go up to any house that he thinks may be in danger of fire and knock on their door,” Francis said. “I’m elected here, not only to secure each employee, but to assure that citizens are secure in their property. They don’t need someone knocking at their door saying ‘Hey, I think your house might be [susceptible] of fire.’”
Mount Vernon Fire Chief Chris Menapace assured council that the department only performs inspections on businesses as a matter of department policy. The department has no authority to perform mandatory inspections of residential homes. Menapace added that the department will, upon request, inspect a private residence.