Citation Ordinance Speeds Compliance With Fire Code

Citation Ordinance Speeds Compliance With Fire Code

A new citation ordinance aimed at gaining faster compliance with provisions of the Uniform Fire Code has been adopted in Corte Madera, Calif.

According to the law, a citation for a misdemeanor offense is an arrest. The violator’s signature is a promise to appear in court as instructed, and the violator is released upon signing. Refusal to sign would require physical arrest. Bail of between $50 and $500 may be posted in lieu of physical arrest.

Corte Madera’s normal process in gaining code compliance in past years has usually been lengthy, involving an initial inspection, notification of violation, reinspection, granting of time extension, reexplanation, and finally the filing of a formal complaint through the town attorney’s office. This process has consistently resulted in extended delays and continued violations. In special situations, no means were provided for immediate action when violations were of a critical nature involving life safety.

The new, stronger law changes that. Now, the issuance of pre-citation letter is normally incentive enough to insure compliance.

It is our intent in Corte Madera to continue the department’s basic philosophy of primarily “selling” fire prevention and to continue with the execution of our present procedures. The issuance of a citation would not be a normal inspection process but would only be used in cases where there are indications of a refusal to comply or an immediate severe life safety problem. When all other efforts fail in obtaining compliance, citations would only be issued by the fire chief or his designated representatives.

The majority of the Uniform Fire Code violations in Corte Madera are considered infractions rather than misdemeanors, and are handled more routinely. Those violations pertaining to life safety would be retained as misdemeanors, thus requiring a jury trial.

Misdemeanors include—among others—obstructing an exit, with a bail of $100, and refusal to comply, with a bail of $500. Some infractions are an accumulation of waste material, $75 bail; obstructing fire protection equipment, $50 bail; and overcrowding, $100 bail. Fines in excess of bail or imprisonment up to six months could also be handed down.

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