House bill gives fire investigators law enforcement capabilities in Howard County

House bill gives fire investigators law enforcement capabilities

Howard County fire investigators will begin training with the county's police academy following the passing of House Bill 1343, which gives the fire officials law enforcement privileges when responding to a fire-related incident.

As police and fire departments work together at the scene of a fire, fire investigators will focus on the fire's origin and cause, while law enforcement's arson detectives determine any potential criminal connection. The latest bill will allow fire investigators to attend the Howard County Police Department academy to become certified police officers – by the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission – but restricting their authority to the state's fire laws.

The Howard County Fire Code currently states that the fire department's responsibility is solely to investigate the fire's origin and cause. Police training and certification will also give fire investigators higher priority in some smaller cases, so police can respond to other calls.

"A top priority for our first responders is ensuring their safety," Fire Chief John Butler said in a statement provided by the department. "The passing of this bill will allow our fire investigators to protect themselves while working potential criminal-related incidents and provide after-hours code enforcement by allowing them to carry a firearm in accordance with applicable laws and training."

House Bill 1343 can be reviewed at goo.gl/xuNSP0.

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