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Public Safety, Department of
Fire Marshal

[Record group 83-3]
Agency Function
The Office of the Fire Marshal is charged with fire prevention work, which includes inspectional activities, investigation of suspicious fires, and enforcement of all state laws and city ordinances pertaining to fire prevention. Routine inspections are made of rooming, lodging and apartment houses; places of public assembly; bulk gasoline and oil plants; gasoline service stations; fuel oil installations; and junkshops. Spot inspections are made on complaints of fire hazards. The office was charged with the issuance of licenses for movie theatres, moving-picture operators, and dry-cleaning establishments, and also issued permits for installations or repairs of oil burners, oil tanks, and gasoline tanks. After the passage of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and the removal of most of its inspectional duties, the Fire Marshal's Office became chiefly concerned with the investigation of fires of suspicious or undetermined origin, or fires resulting in injury or death, and follows through in the prosecution of suspected arsonists. This office also supervises the regulations and use of fireworks, lays out routes for the transportation of explosives through the city, processes all applications for blasting operations, and investigates false alarms where a suspect has been apprehended.

Agency History
The City Councils, under an Ordinance approved on 25 March 1864, provided for the appointment of a fire marshal from the ranks of the Police Department, with the authority and powers of a detective police officer.
The Office was reorganized on 8 February 1936 and constituted as a separate unit within the office of the Director of Public Safety. Under the provisions of the Ordinance of 22 September 1949, the office of the Fire Marshall was transferred to the Bureau of Fire. Most of its inspection duties relating to fire prevention were assigned to the newly-created Department of Licenses and Inspections after passage of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter in 1951.

Archival Records
83-3.1 Annual Reports (1948)

83-3.2 Laws and Ordinances Relating to the Fire Marshall (ca. 1907)


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Last updated on November 8, 2000