Legal Alerts Aug 18, 2017

Fire Protection Districts' Authority to Enforce State Fire Marshal Standards and Regulations Reiterated in California AG Opinion

Local Agencies’ Broad Authority Emphasized

The California Attorney General has reiterated fire protection districts’ broad authority to enforce building standards and regulations disseminated by the State Fire Marshal, including for residential occupancies and designated licensed facilities, in an opinion published last month. In Opinion No. 16-801, the Attorney General’s Office responded to a question from Shasta County Counsel regarding the authority of fire protection districts to enforce building standards and regulations of “R-3 dwellings,” as defined under the California Building Code.
R-3 dwellings include a wide swath of residential occupancies, from single-family homes to similar structures that are licensed for operation as daycare centers or addiction recovery centers. The clarification came in response to an interpretation of Health and Safety Code section 13146 that would have limited authority to enforce standards and regulations for R-3 dwellings to city or county officials and prohibit such enforcement by fire protection district chiefs.
The Attorney General found this interpretation unpersuasive. The statute in question, according to the AG, “provides organizational direction” for local agencies to work in concert on matters of fire safety, and should not be read as a limitation on the authority of fire protection districts and their chiefs.
The opinion describes the existing statutory support permitting local agencies to enforce state standards and regulations related to fire protection, suppression and prevention based on the agency’s own specific circumstances. It also emphasizes the opportunity available to all local agencies that provide fire protection services to work with other local communities to ensure such services are not duplicative.
The opinion emphasizes the broad authority of local agencies, and particularly fire protection districts, to enforce building standards and regulations adopted by the State Fire Marshal ensure universal and efficient fire protection services.
If you have any questions about this opinion or how it may impact your agency, please contact the authors of this Legal Alert listed to the right in the firm’s Municipal Law and Special Districts practice groups, or your BB&K attorney.
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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