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33-year veteran appointed county fire marshal

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

Tom Murphy, a 33-year veteran with the Salisbury Fire Department, is the new Rowan County fire marshal.

County Manager Bill Cowan appointed Murphy to the job earlier this month.

Frank Thomason, emergency services director, selected Murphy from nine applicants.

Murphy, who is the fourth person to hold the county fire marshal’s post, steps into a greatly expanded fire marshal’s job.

In addition to the fire investigations, Murphy will be handling fire inspections for commercial and public buildings, and apartments.

For decades, the county’s inspections department has done fire inspections.

During a review and reorganization of the county’s operations, officials took a look at how other counties handle fire inspections.

“We didn’t find anywhere in the state that did it the way we did it,” said Thomason.

The fire marshal’s office is being reorganized into a fire division that will require hiring additional full time positions.

The county handles all fire inspections and building inspections for all the county’s municipalities, except for Salisbury and Kannapolis.

Thomason said some municipalities have indicated an interest in doing their own fire inspections.

Under an agreement with the city, Salisbury is doing fire inspections of county schools. That agreement is expected to continue for six months or so, until the new fire division is up and running.

Thomason said Murphy is a good fit for the revised responsibilities, since he has extensive experience in doing fire inspections and heading up the city’s fire inspections program.

“We are extremely pleased to have Murphy on board. His years of experience in fire investigation and inspections will do very well with Rowan County and its citizens,” Thomason said.

Murphy, who grew up in Rowan and graduated from Boyden High School, joined the Salisbury Fire Department in 1973 as a firefighter.

He progressed through the ranks, moving to driver-operator, now called an engineer.

In 1980, he transferred to the department’s fire prevention bureau, becoming a fire inspector.

In January 1997, Murphy was appointed city fire marshal. He conducted investigations and inspections and oversaw a staff of three inspectors.

When the county fire marshal’s job came open, Murphy put his application in.

“I’d been thinking about doing something a little different.” Murphy said.

While much of his job is the same, he’s got a lot bigger territory.

A resident of western Rowan, Murphy said he thought he knew a good bit about the county, until the calls started coming in.

“I’ve been to places I didn’t know existed,” said Murphy.

Since starting to work in his new job on Jan. 2, Murphy has found a lot of streets and roads aren’t on readily available maps.

The county also uses three part-time assistant fire marshals.

Those include Chris Lyerly, who has served as interim fire marshal, and Kevin Holshouser. A third post is vacant.

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