FDNY Bureau of Fire Prevention supervisors promoted amid enforcement declines

By Matthew Chayes | February 18, 2023

Paint cans and cardboard boxes kept hazardously in an office tower’s electrical room. Blocked exits and stairways. Fireworks improperly handled, or a packed-like-sardines nightclub way over the legal occupancy.

About 85 supervisors of the FDNY Bureau of Fire Prevention civilian personnel who work to prevent those dangerous conditions — and the resulting threats to life — were promoted Friday morning.

“Inspections are so crucial to public safety, both for New Yorkers and for the firefighters who respond to so many dangerous situations. Every inspection matters. The work you do is preventing fires, ensuring alarm and sprinkler systems are functioning properly and essentially helping to arm our firefighters with information they need to help them to fight fires and save lives,” Chief of Department John Hodgens said at the promotion ceremony, held in the auditorium of the FDNY’s Randalls Island training campus.

The promotions come as the number of inspections, summonses and violations are down in recent years, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. 

The bureau can issue FDNY summonses for minor infractions, such as a missing fire extinguisher. There are worse infractions, such as blocked exits in schools, which could mean criminal court summonses, William Romer of North Merrick, 57, who was promoted from deputy chief inspector to chief inspector at the ceremony, said in an interview after the ceremony.

He has been with the FDNY’s Bureau of Fire Prevention since 1993 and has been a volunteer firefighter with several departments on Long Island, including Wantagh, Hempstead, Manhasset-Lakeville and North Bellmore.

“I’ve always wanted to be a fireman, ever since I was a little kid. My father was an honorary member in Hempstead. My grandfather was a fireman. So I grew up living it on Long Island my whole life, so when I turned 18, I joined the volunteer fire department,” he said.

He said he had also worked for a fire extinguisher company,  giving him knowledge that helped when he took the test to be hired at the FDNY bureau. 

His duties have included inspecting fire alarms in high-rise buildings, supervising the loading of fireworks, and working in the laboratory unit, which deals with hospitals’ storage of chemicals, and handling of compressed gasses and bulk oxygen.

The bureau’s jobs are filled using a separate test from the firefighting and emergency medical services.

According to the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, the civilian fire prevention personnel completed 149,300 inspections in fiscal year 2022, issued 29,456 violations, with 25,521 violations corrected, and 220 summonses issued, according to the 2023 Mayor’s Management Report.

The correction rate of violations for the most recent year, 76%, is down from previous years: It was 83% in fiscal year 2021, 86% in fiscal year 2020 and 87% in fiscal year 2019. The number of summonses issued has also gone down: 7,225 in fiscal year 2019, 3,827 in fiscal year 2020, 1,521 in fiscal year 2021 and 220 in fiscal year 2022. The number of violations has also been dropping. It was 65,201 as recently as fiscal year 2019, according to a previous management report.