The two Poway Fire staff members who make up the department’s Fire Prevention division may not fight fires like the rest of their colleagues, but their contributions to the safety of our community is just as impactful.
Deputy Fire Marshal Andy Loperena and Senior Fire Inspector Matt Powell work to prevent hazardous situations from happening in the City of Poway, as well as to maintain a safe environment for our community members, businesses, and emergency responders.
“I’ve seen a lot in my 32 years in this industry,” said Loperena, “I will never feel like I’ve seen it all. Experiencing new daily challenges is what keeps us on our toes and our eyes constantly on the fire code.”
Their job includes reviewing plans as part of the city’s permit process to ensure fire codes are being met. It also includes new and annual fire inspections of all Poway businesses.
Having a keen sense of visual awareness helps Loperena and Powell work through their checklist during an inspection. On a walkthrough of a local restaurant, Powell checked that the gas compression tank for the soda machine was in compliance and that all fire suppression systems (alarms, fire extinguishers and sprinklers) were in place and serviced as required. He also looked to see if the exits were clearly marked, because in the event of an emergency everyone inside needs a safe, accessible way out.
The California Fire Code is complex (the current code manual is 912 pages long) and while it’s near impossible to memorize all that information, Loperena and Powell must be able to quickly access what they need in order to problem solve on the go.
Loperena stopped by a preschool one afternoon to provide input on a new safety gate. To determine what type of gate would be in compliance, he needed to establish if the playground shade structure met the criteria of a “safe refuge” in the event of an emergency. He was able to do this by calculating the distance, square feet, and maximum occupancy.
Though the technical skills are important, Poway’s Fire Prevention duo never lose sight of two more essential qualities: good customer service and the ability to build relationships with the people they serve.