Employee spotlight: Joe Tremont
Don’t blame Joe Tremont if he’s a little camera
Tremont, the university’s chief fire marshal/interim director of
Environmental Health and Safety, once had an experience with a
photographer that’s forever etched in his mind. It happened more
than 20 years ago when he was a firefighter in Port Arthur.
Propane gas, which is heavier than air, had leaked from a local
refinery and settled in a large culvert along a highway.
Authorities had to close the road in both directions, then
Tremont and two other firefighters went down to blow the
volatile gas vapors out of the deep culvert.
“All of a sudden, we see a flash and I immediately start
thinking the worse,” Tremont said. “But when we looked up, we
saw that somehow a photographer from the local newspaper had
slipped through the police lines and was taking a picture of
Tremont spent 17 years with the Port Arthur Fire Department,
having joined it a week after graduating from high school.
During that time, he earned a degree in occupational safety and
health from Lamar University in Beaumont. He left the department
in 1993 when his wife, who is a chemist, was offered a job in
After five years in New Orleans, his wife took a job in Houston,
and Tremont started applying for jobs. He ended up at the
University of Houston after applying for and being offered a job
as a fire safety technician. In that role, he was responsible
for ensuring all the fire extinguishers on campus were properly
He’s also served as a safety specialist at UH, which at the time
meant his job duties included doing food inspections and various
training courses, including defensive driving and CPR. Later, he
became the university’s assistant fire marshal, a post he held
until February 2012, when he became the fire marshal.
As fire marshal, he oversees a staff that is being kept busy
with all the construction projects on campus.
“New buildings have fire and safety codes that need to be
followed. Our department reviews plans to make sure they meet
the codes,” Tremont said.
His staff also makes sure fire walls are being built correctly
and that sprinkler systems are being installed right and by
qualified personnel. At the end of the project, they test all of the fire protection features in the new building to ensure they work correctly.
“When Cougar Village was built, it took us three weeks just to
go through the acceptance testing on that building before we
would release it to be occupied. Speakers, smoke detectors in
every room have to be checked,” he said.
In November, Tremont was named interim director of Environmental
Health and Safety. The safety positions for the university at
one time had been part of EHS, but were split off and paired
with the University of Houston Police Department. When that
happened, the fire marshal, assistant fire marshal and deputy
fire marshal positions were established.
Recently, the decision was made to put the fire marshal’s office
back with Environmental Health and Safety, and so Tremont is
helping to oversee that process. Having a firefighter
background, he thinks, is making the transition easier.
“When you work as a firefighter, it’s so much more different
than other kinds of jobs. You’re like one big family. You learn
a lot about teamwork,” he said. “My guys don’t know the word
‘no.’ They step right up to the plate around here.”
Tremont has two grown children: a daughter who is a registered
nurse who works in an emergency room, and a son who just
graduated from college and has a teaching certificate.
Although he hasn’t been a firefighter in two decades, he still
keeps in contact with many of his former co-workers from the
Port Arthur Fire Department.
“The friendships and bonds you build as a firefighter last
forever,” he said.