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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Bedford Township: New fire inspector helping owners address safety issues

Ron Whipple inspects an electrical box in a Samaria building. Ron Whipple inspects an electrical box in a Samaria building.

TEMPERANCE - If they didn't already know him from the 25 years he previously spent as a volunteer firefighter in Lambertville, Bedford Township's business owners are about to become a whole lot more familiar with Ron Whipple.

Mr. Whipple, 58, started his new job last month as the township's first full-time fire inspector, and in the few short weeks he's been on the job, he's already been able to convince a number of local business owners to address safety issues at their facilities.

"This is always what I really wanted to do," said Mr. Whipple, who until last month had been chief of the Frenchtown Township Fire Department for the last seven years.

Though he now lives in Monroe, Mr. Whipple is in the process of selling his house there to return to Bedford Township, where he served on the Lambertville Volunteer Fire Department from 1971 until he became chief in Frenchtown in 1997 and moved north.

With a degree in fire science, Mr. Whipple was one of the founding members of the Monroe County Fire Investigations team, which includes trained fire investigators from several local fire and law enforcement agencies. He has remained an active member of the team since its inception in the late 1990s.

Unlike fire inspectors in many larger jurisdictions, Mr. Whipple's job in Toledo's largest suburb explicitly lacks many of the bludgeons available to convince business owners to address fire safety deficiencies. In convincing the township board to create the position in the first place, Chief John Bofia had to provide strict assurances that the department would adopt a complete "velvet glove" approach, and that suits Mr. Whipple just fine.

"We're not out here to cost you a whole lot of money, we're out here to make your building safe for your customers, and for the firefighters," Mr. Whipple said. To accomplish this task, Mr. Whipple said he is scheduling all of his appointments so that business owners know they won't be subject to any "surprise" inspections, and he's following up quickly to make sure any deficiencies he finds are addressed.

"By telling them beforehand that I'm coming, it gives a business owner or a manager a chance to fix anything that they might see before I do an inspection," Mr. Whipple said. "If they take care of a problem before I get there, that's good, too. It's about getting these issues addressed."

Mr. Whipple's position will pay him $43,300 for the first year.

The fire inspector's post is outside of the Bedford Township Fire Department's traditional chain of command, although he does report directly to Chief Bofia.

Mr. Whipple will respond to Bedford Township fire calls, but will serve in a capacity as an investigator instead of as a command officer.

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