EFD R-1 Inspection Program
State-Mandated Inspections of Hotels, Motels, and Apartment Buildings
Most fire service resources are designed and dedicated to responding to events after they have occurred to minimize any potential destruction. A small portion of our resources are directed at preventing problems from occurring. It is much better, both fiscally and physically, to prevent the damage from occurring than to respond to the damage after it has occurred.
Any act or omission that is predictable is preventable. We can predict that fire will occur more in residential settings than in any other type of occupancy. The number of fires in non-owner occupied residential structures tends to be high due to lack of commitment by both the owner and the occupants. Fires in multi-family residential structures, such as apartments, represent a high life hazard due to the large number of people that can be affected by one person’s mistake.
In the late 1970’s, California experienced a high rate of fires and fire fatalities in multi-family residential occupancies. As a result of these fires, the California legislature passed legislation requiring local fire authorities to conduct annual inspection of these types of occupancies to prevent fires in an effort to reduce loss of life and property.
A fire in Marysville, California, on July 24, 1974, led to a Superior Court decision, Widmar v. City of Marysville. In this case, the City and the Fire Chief were held liable for a fire that occurred in a hotel that resulted in serious injuries. In 1984, the California Legislature passed a law, Health and Safety Code 13146.2, mandating local fire authorities to annually inspect all hotels, motels and apartment buildings, collectively known as R-1 occupancies, within their jurisdiction. The same section allows the local agency to charge fees to recover the cost of the inspections October 3, 1994, a memorandum was sent from the Eureka Fire Department Fire Marshal to the Mayor and City Council outlining an R-1 program structure and the application of the new laws.
R-1 inspections conducted by engine company personnel started in 1994 but no fees were assessed. Eureka was one of the first cities in northern California to comply with the new state law. September 20, 1995, letters were sent out to owners of R-1 occupancies to inform them of compliance issues and for them to respond back to EFD. November 13, 1996, a public news release informed the community EFD implemented State-mandated apartment inspection program known as ”R-1’s.”
The intent was to inspect each apartment building once yearly for basic fire safety features. Buildings were checked for smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and exiting, along with other code requirements depending on age and size of the structure.
Today there are about 350 R-1’s in the community inspected annually.
Effective June 1, 2005, the Eureka Fire Department placed the R-1 program entirely within the Fire Prevention Bureau assigned to a civilian Fire Inspector position and implemented a fee-for-service to recover costs for the program. Fees are based on the time fire department employees spend working on the specific occupancy. Fees are found in the City of Eureka Schedule of Fees and Charges, and are currently set at $62.21 per hour.
The Fire Inspector will be able to focus on the R-1 program and coordinate to meet the needs of the property owners and managers. For owners and property managers, time-based fees provide incentive to keep in compliance with law. Compliance means safer occupancies and less time is spent inspecting properties.
Attached is a checklist designed to give property owners some indications of what fire and life safety issues the Fire Inspector will be checking for during the annual inspection. Contact the Eureka Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau to discuss any issues you may have regarding these occupancies.