Development of the State & Barrow County Fire Marshal's Office
The foundation of the Georgia Safety Fire Law and the State Fire Marshal’s office is based on Harry Truman’s Fire Prevention Conference, which occurred shortly after the Winecoff Hotel fire in 1946. The Winecoff Hotel opened in 1913 in the city of Atlanta and was advertised as an “absolutely fireproof” building. But, the term fireproof was an insurance term that only meant that the building would not collapse under fire; it did not apply to the building contents. In addition, the hotel had no fire doors, no sprinklers, no fire escapes, and only one stairway to service all fifteen floors.
A fire started at the Winecoff Hotel in the early morning of December 7, 1946. It is believed to have started on the third floor. The cause of the fire has been debated throughout the years with some saying that it began accidentally by a dropped cigarette and others saying it was arson. In any event, once the fire ignited, both fire and smoke quickly filled the hotel. The single stairway acted similar to a chimney, allowing smoke to flow straight up through the middle of the building. As the smoke layer reached each floor, it spread outward, filling the hallways and guest rooms.
With 119 lives lost, the Winecoff fire remains the deadliest hotel fire in the history of the US, and had the 3rd most lives lost during a fire incident at the time of Truman’s Fire Prevention Conference. The fire and Truman’s Conference changed the way the fire code was viewed and implemented all over the United States, and Georgia was certainly no exception.
Currently the State of Georgia Fire Marshal’s Office operates with 37 Certified Fire Inspectors to cover 159 counties within the State of Georgia. Due to the extremely high demand for building inspections, the state fire marshal’s office mandated that any county or city government that reaches 80,000 in population must provide their own agencies Fire Marshal’s Division. This division will be deputized by the state’s office to enforce all building codes and regulations set forth by the state of Georgia, with the ability to enforce any county or city ordinances placed by the local government.
In 2018 Barrow County Fire Department and Barrow County Board of Commissioners established the Barrow County Fire Marshal’s Office. At the beginning of the Barrow County Fire Marshal’s Office in order to meet the rapidly growing rate of the county the Fire Marshal’s Office solely focused on new construction coming into Barrow County. However due to the alarming right of growth the fire marshal’s office has sense evolved to have 1 full time fire marshal (Captain Jessie Knight) 1 full time fire inspector/fire investigator/plans examiner (Lieutenant Will Wiggins) & 1 full time inspector/fire safety educator (Lieutenant Shawne Gum).
These three make up the Barrow County Fire Departments Fire Marshal’s Office, and have been tasked with the duties of such:
New Construction Inspections
Annual Life Safety Inspections on Existing Businesses
Public Education (Fire Safety, CPR & First Aid, AED, Stop the Bleed) provided to the citizens
Community Risk Reduction
Wide Range of Permitting
All Inspection Complaints
All Illegal Burn Complaints
As you can see listed above the Barrow County Fire Marshal’s Office provides a great deal of service to the community. Each member within the office takes tremendous pride in serving the community in all aspects of the emergency services. It is the primary focus of the fire marshal’s office to attempt to provide the community with the safest method of living inside our community as possible.
*Prevention of an emergency is priority 1!
Barrow County Fire Marshal's Division
Captain Jessie Knight
Lieutenant Will Wiggins
Inspector, Investigation, & Fire Plans Examiner
Lieutenant Shawne Gum
Inspector, Public Fire and Life Safety Educator, & Public Relations