Marysville Fire District Fire Marshal Tom Maloney was recently named the State Fire Marshal of the Year.
The Washington State Association of Fire Marshals gives out the award during their annual meeting.
"It got to the awards portion of the meeting and they started describing the winner as 'calm' and I thought 'well, that's not me,'" said Maloney. "Then I heard my name and I was legit speechless and quite honored that I have a group of peers within the state that felt I was deserving of this award. There's a lot of great people out there."
As Fire Marshal his responsibilities largely include the work of preventing fires through building inspections and reviewing plans of future developments.
"We want to keep those assets, which are those great big buildings, standing and those people employed. Without a fire marshal's office we wouldn't have the ability to make sure those are safe," said Maloney.
Marysville Fire District Chief Martin McFalls said preventative work is an important but often forgotten part of a fire agency's duties.
"The importance of a fire marshal is to put things in place so our people aren't facing these insurmountable tragedies that with proper planning and intervention wouldn't have happened," said McFalls "It's a proactive position in a very reactive industry."
In that role Maloney supports prevention work around fireworks, heating fires and other preventable disasters, said McFalls.
One of Maloney's biggest pushes has been for installing more sprinklers in buildings. Research consistently shows that even a small sprinkler system in a building decreases the chance of death or injury by a significant amount, said McFalls.
"Studies have shown if there would have just been one sprinkler head in the area when a fire started, things would've been much different, especially in the lives saved," he said.
Many local businesses and organizations are supporting the effort now, said McFalls.
"He's got some people behind him that I thought would never get behind him. The Master Builders [Association] and some of the developers," he said.
The Marysville Opera House is now scheduled to receive sprinklers in 2021, as well, thanks to the push.
"Just from the standpoint of preservation we never want to lose such a historic building," said McFalls. "That's one of those retrofits in a building like that is not easy to."
Maloney is also the current vice president of the Washington State Association of Fire Marshals, and helps lead the organization.
"He looks at the whole picture. Whenever we're making a decision he makes sure we represent as many people as we can," said David Kokot, president of the association.
The association puts on an annual Fire Prevention Institute that is a week-long meeting to help advance the field locally and Maloney has been the lead organizer for a number of years, said Kokot.
"He's really turned it into quite the event," he said. "He really brought in a higher quality of speakers."
Maloney attends national events and was able to make connections there to bring back to Washington state, said Kokot.
Kokot said he thought Maloney was very deserving of the award.
"He's a very humble person, although he's also outspoken about many things," he said. "It's nice to give the award to someone who doesn't know they deserve it."
Maloney has worked in Marysville since 2008, and before that served as Snohomish County Fire Marshal and as the Fire Chief in Polson, Montana.
He began his career as a volunteer in a small town in upstate New York.
For the past nearly 13 years he said he has enjoyed Marysville, and the other areas the Marysville Fire District serves outside Marysville city limits such as Lake Goodwin.
"It's special because the Marysville area and the rural area kind of reminds me of home, and the people that make up Marysville and the RFA remind me of home," he said.
"I have been blessed to do this since 1984," he said.
The profession is a calling for Maloney, according to McFalls, who wanted to congratulate him for the recognition.
"It's encouraging to see someone who has been in the business as long as he has and is just as excited about it as the first day he started," said McFalls.
Maloney wanted to thank those who have mentored him and those who work with him.
"I really attribute my success to the support of our counsel, our board members, the staff assigned to me and the firefighters as well," he said. "That has allowed me to do what I do."