NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is expanding the city’s fire prevention efforts.

Mitchell said he’s bolstering the New Bedford Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Unit and ordering an increase in inspections of “high-risk” neighborhoods, which includes multi-family homes, boarding houses, apartment buildings with three or more units and treatment facilities.

He is also launching a citywide education campaign, which will consist of a variety of pertinent topics such as fire prevention, safety and response.

“The department has a well-earned reputation for being highly proficient in emergency response, but we have always known that there were significant opportunities to complement that emergency response capacity with prevention initiatives,” Mitchell said. “The expected increase in inspection activity, as well as the improved public awareness of fire risks, are going to make our city safer for everyone.”

New Bedford Fire Chief Scott Kruger emphasized the key role fire safety education can have in shaping residents’ daily habits.

“Most fires start with some type of human involvement whether it’s carelessness, an intentional, or unintentional act,” he said. “Whether you’re a building owner, tenant, at home, school, or work, we all need the knowledge to prevent fires and to understand how to respond when one occurs.”

The city has already hired a designated code compliance inspector and safety educator to enforce the expanded fire prevention initiatives, according to Kruger.

It’s been nearly two decades since the city has had a dedicated code compliance inspector. Kruger said the role was phased out due to budget constraints back in 2005.

“Once a building or occupancy is brought into compliance with any fire code or law, the challenge is maintaining that compliance,” he said. “Having an inspector dedicated to enforcement at ‘high-risk properties’ is going to make these buildings much safer going forward.”

Kruger said the inspector will also conduct regular compliance checks in buildings with a history of code violations, aren’t owner-occupied or have a greater fire risk.

The fire prevention efforts come amid an extremely busy year for the department. Back in March, two residents died in a fire that tore through a rooming house. Nearly a month later, an elderly man and woman died after becoming trapped on the second floor of their home.