CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones says the search for a permanent fire marshal is nearing its end.

“We’re actually down to four finalists,” Chief Jones says. “There’s one internal candidate, one out-of-state candidate, and two candidates from elsewhere in North Carolina.”

Matt Lawrence moved from the fire marshal position to Deputy Chief of Operations about ten months ago. Since then, Dace Bergen has held the interim position.

The fire marshal is responsible for the life safety division of the fire department—one which Chapel Hill has been working short on staff.

“They’re responsible for a wide range of things ranging from commercial inspections of businesses,” Chief Jones says. “They do plan reviews on developments and new construction; they do public education programs—a wide variety from fire safety programs for school kids to safety programs for the elderly.”

He says the fire marshal also performs the fire cause determination investigations.

And Chief Jones says there hasn’t been a lack of work in the time in which Bergen has filled the interim spot from a deputy fire marshal position.

“They only have five people in that division to start with, so when you’re one person down, that’s a 20-percent drop in your workforce,” Chief Jones says.

The Chapel Hill Fire Department operates from five fire stations around the town and staffs nearly 100 employees. Its budget is upwards of $7 million, and it’s responsible for protecting more than $7 billion worth of property—of which nearly $5 billion belongs to UNC.