A member of the Missouri Fire Safety Board thinks most Missourians would be surprised to learn how little authority and how few resources the state fire marshall’s office has. Fire Safety Board member Mike Mahler of St. Louis says the mission of the state division of fire safety is to provide safety enforcement and to educate citizens so they are safe. He says the office is to be the lead agency in fire safety and fire prevention. But he says the Anderson Guest House fire in November that killed 11 people emphasizes the shortcomings of the agency. He says the fire marshall has no authority in nursing homes or in student housing. In fact, he says, Missouri is one of the few states without a state fire code. Mahler spends little money on the Division of Fire Safety and almost 90 percent of the money the state does put into the division goes for personnel costs, leaving little for equipment and training although, he says, the fire safety field has become increasingly technical and the need for training of technicians has greatly increased. But he says funding for equipment has been cut in half during the last four years. Mahler says many lawmakers say government should operate as a private business does. But he has told the Senate Appropriations Committe no private business would last long with the limited financial resources the agency is given.
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