Overview of the Department of Fire Services

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Department of Fire Services.

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The Department of Fire Services (DFS) was established under Section 109 of Chapter 151 of the 1996 Massachusetts Acts and Resolves and codified in Section 1 of Chapter 22D of the Massachusetts General Laws establishing DFS and its divisions under the direction of the State Fire Marshal.

DFS is a secretariat agency of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. That office is responsible for policy development and budgetary oversight. According to its internal control plan, DFS’s mission is as follows:

To provide the citizens of Massachusetts with the ability to create safer communities; to assist and support the fire service community in the protection of life and property; to promote and enhance firefighter safety; and to provide a fire service leadership presence in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security in order to direct policy and legislation on all fire related matters.

DFS provides training and assistance to fire departments in the Commonwealth. The training is provided by a division of DFS called the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. DFS provides further assistance to communities through its Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Division, Special Operations Unit, State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit, and Fire Safety Division.

DFS received state appropriations for fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019 totaling $24,336,881, $26,569,913, and $29,555,646, respectively. In our audit, we reviewed DFS’s annual physical inventory, including new purchases, disposals, and the annual physical inventory report, as well as earmarks appropriated to DFS.


DFS’s inventory assets are tangible property of the Commonwealth used for daily operations and consequently need to be secured and managed by the organization. DFS conducts annual physical inventory verifications and distributes quarterly reports to reconcile inventory updates, including purchases and disposals.

DFS’s “Fixed Asset Policy and Procedures” document describes fixed assets as follows:

Fixed assets are defined in the Comptroller’s Acquisition Policy and generally include all land and any buildings, furniture, equipment, and infrastructure with a useful life of more than one year and an original cost of $1,000 or more.

The Comptroller of the Commonwealth’s “Fixed Assets—Accounting and Management Policy” states,

There shall be an annual inventory taken of fixed assets owned by every Department. This inventory shall include, at a minimum, a verification of the existence and location of fixed assets owned by a Department. . . .

There shall be a reconciliation of the fixed asset inventory against the books and records maintained by the Department. . . . This reconciliation is to be done, at a minimum, on an annual basis.

The Operational Services Division (OSD) offers various programs and services for managing Commonwealth property. OSD requires departments to periodically assess their inventories of equipment, supplies, and materials. According to Section 3 of Title 802 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations,

Agencies must examine their inventories of equipment, supplies and materials . . . periodically, but no less than annually, and report property that is no longer needed to the [State Surplus Property Office]. . . . State agencies may not transfer, donate, destroy or otherwise dispose of property without following [State Surplus Property Office] procedures. . . .

Upon approval by [the State Surplus Property Office], agencies are authorized to destroy property items considered to be worthless.

Earmarked Funds

Annually, the Division of Insurance charges an assessment to insurance companies operating in the Commonwealth to fund the operations of certain state agencies. DFS receives a portion of this, called the Department of Fire Services Administration Assessment, that is intended for the following: operation of the state fire training facilities and curriculum for firefighting personnel; implementation of regulatory requirements; operation of student fire education programs; fire equipment grants; and capital improvements for state fire facilities.

Cities and towns across the Commonwealth receive a portion of these funds as earmarks, within the assessment, for their local fire departments. These funds are to be used in accordance with the specific language found in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), the annual budget of the Commonwealth. To receive earmarked funds, towns and cities present their proposals to their local state representatives about providing funding for fire-department-related expenses. The representatives present the proposals to the Legislature to include in the GAA. Once the GAA is passed, DFS informs cities and towns of the process for receiving reimbursement for their purchases. DFS submits funds to the towns when their municipal fire departments provide appropriate documentation to prove they have made appropriate purchases.

Additionally, DFS receives earmarked funds for specific programs, such as Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE), Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), and On-Site Academy. These programs are administered by DFS and have been funded each fiscal year in the GAA. The purpose of the SAFE Program is to support fire safety education by providing funds for firefighters in Massachusetts to teach students in schools about fire safety. The CISM Program provides training, counseling, emotional support, and conferences to support firefighters and other public safety personnel in relation to the stresses and difficulties of their jobs. On-Site Academy is a program for public safety personnel who are seeking help for substance use, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other trauma.

During our audit period, earmarks totaled $5,258,600, $4,730,000, and $6,236,000, for fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively.

Date published: May 12, 2020

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