School districts around the state report about 15 fires per month, and there are probably more that go unreported, said deputy state fire marshal John T. Elder.
Sometimes, he said, district administrators don't report fires because staffers manage to extinguish them without the help of local fire departments. Sometimes the alarms are false.But under state law all fires must be reported. Districts that don't notify local fire departments about every school blaze are themselves likely to be reported to the state.
That happened to the Davis School District in 1986, when Bountiful Fire Department Chief Jerry Lemon told the state fire marshal the district wasn't reporting all its fires.
Lemon said reporting is still a problem. "They seem to think they can handle (the fires) themselves, until they get out of control. Then they call ," Lemon told the Deseret News.
Sharon Gardner, director of plant operations for the Davis district, disagreed. "That's simply not true," he said. "We probably have a better (reporting) track record than any city in the state."
At significant expense - Davis High's system alone cost $40,000 - the district installed alarm systems in all the schools, Gardner said. "We monitor them 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
In fact, he said, when the Clearfield Fire Department put the district on notice that every fire, no matter how small - "even a Bic lighter, practically" - must be reported, the Davis district complied scrupulously.
But Clearfield Fire Chief Roger Bodily, like Bountiful's Lemon, said the district is not reporting all its fires. "It is a problem," Bodily said.
It is acceptable for the district to put out small fires. "If they can extinguish the fire, that's fine. We don't need to roll a truck," he said.
But fire departments still need timely reports, he said. "I want to know when a fire occurs, no matter how small," Bodily said. "We want to be aware of it so we can establish patterns."
Gardner, one of three Davis district fire marshals, said the district's security manager will meet with Lemon to resolve the reporting issue. "Whatever it takes," Gardner said. "It's our students we're protecting."