Steve Kovacs started work as Dare County's new fire marshal on March 5.
He grew up in Mt. Laurel, NJ – just east of Philadelphia – and now lives with his wife Jennifer and their three children in Kill Devil Hills.
After graduating from high school, Kovacs attended Chowan University in Murfreesboro. "It had one of the top three graphics programs in the nation," Kovacs said.
While earning his associate's degree, Kovacs experienced a rekindling of his love for eastern North Carolina. "I remember crabbing in Hatteras as a boy when we passed through on our way to Florida," he said. "I just fell in love with the south and especially eastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks."
After college, Kovacs worked as a paramedic with several different towns in southern New Jersey. When an opportunity opened up to join Dare County's EMS, Kovacs grabbed it. "I've been in Dare County since 1990," he said, "and I haven't looked back."
He transferred to a firefighter position with the Nags Head Fire Department in 1997 and was later promoted to fire captain. In 2010, he received his B.S. in Fire Safety Engineering Technology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
When Nags Head Mayor Pro Tem Doug Remaley retired in December from the post he'd held for 17 years as county fire marshal, another opportunity opened up for Kovacs. "With Nags Head's fire marshal slot being frozen," he explained, "a lot of the work that I'd been doing for the last two years filled that void."
Kovacs was qualified, experienced – and ready to tackle a new challenge.
The Dare County fire marshal works to coordinate firefighting and fire prevention services in the county's unincorporated areas, where he also conducts cause and origin fire investigations, enforces state fire codes, reviews site plans, conducts inspections and maintains a fire data reporting system. The fire marshal also works as a liaison between the fire districts and the county board of commissioners.
He said that the Dare County Sheriff's Office is the lead investigator on the recent fires in Waves, receiving assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge and working with the county and the departments. The Outer Banks is a dynamic community, and what's going on today may not be what's going on six months or a year from now. Each department has a great group of individuals who are out here giving their time to the communities to make them safer and increase everybody's quality of life," said Kovacs.
"It takes a special individual to come out and volunteer with the fire departments and rescue squads. They truly are giving of themselves to help the community – putting themselves and their families second."
He commended the work of the firefighters on Hatteras Island during and after Hurricane Irene, Kovacs emphasized, "They're the first line. They're the ones people turn to. And even though their own houses were damaged, they were still out there, helping their neighbors. And I know the public relies one-hundred percent on these departments and the dedication of their volunteers and career staff."
Kovacs added that he will focus a lot of his attention in the coming months on offering more education to the public on fire safety issues.
"Dare County is fortunate to have Steve Kovacs serving as fire marshal," said County Manager Bobby Outten. "He brings extensive training and a wealth of experience in the fire service, having served with the Nags Head Fire Department over 15 years. We are glad to have him on board."