EASTON — The Office of the State Fire Marshal added experienced law enforcement officers to their ranks Wednesday, Sept. 9, after being appointed as deputy state fire marshals, including two former Easton Police officers. In a physically distanced ceremony in Pikesville, four new deputies, including the first Latino female, were welcomed by State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci.
To help keep up with attrition and keep its ranks filled, the Office of the State Fire Marshal — like many other agencies throughout the country — goes beyond training new recruits to seek “lateral” transfers from other local, county and state police departments, who still must go through background checks but who are already certified and don’t need to go through a police academy.
Alex Chinn served five and half years with Easton Police. Chinn was born and raised in the United Kingdom before coming to the United States in 1999. He was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division before making the lateral move to the OSFM. Chinn is a graduate of the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy and is a certified negotiator. He will be assigned to the Lower Eastern Regional Office, serving Dorchester, Somerset, and Wicomico counties.
Ben Schorr also joins the OSFM from the Easton Police Department. Schorr, born and raised in Caroline County, was a five-year veteran of the agency. After serving in the Marines, Schorr graduated from the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy and was a sniper with the EPD’s Crisis Response Unit. Schorr has been assigned to the Upper Eastern Regional Office, serving Caroline, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties.
Adam Rounds, a corporal and a 12 ½-year veteran of Garrett County Sheriff’s Office, will be assigned to the Western Regional Office, serving Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties. He is a native of Garrett County and graduated from the Eastern Shore Criminal Justice Academy.
Thanks to Geraci’s ongoing efforts to recruit female and minority candidates to the agency, a first for the agency occurred Wednesday with hiring a former special police officer for The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C.
Helys Valles is the first female Latino deputy state fire marshal candidate hired by the Office of the State Fire Marshal in its 56-year history. Valles was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States in 2012. Valles has a master’s degree in Forensic Sciences and said she wanted to use her education to determine the origin and cause of fire and explosions.
“Given time, she will bring a lot to the agency,” Geraci said. “She was very well-regarded at the Royal Embassy. They were sad to see her go, and we are excited to have her on board. Like other police departments, we find ourselves having difficulty attracting minority candidates — particularly females.”
Due to Maryland training requirements, Valles will attend the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Police Academy later this month and graduate in April 2021. Upon her successful graduation, Valles will officially be sworn in. Valles will be assigned to the Southern Regional Office serving Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
The OSFM will provide field training to all of the new deputy state fire marshals, which will consist of being partnered with senior personnel over 15 weeks. Training will include investigative techniques, agency policy, administrative functions, determining fire/explosive origin and cause, post-blast investigation, and fire safety and life code inspections.