California bill to increase fire safety passes state Legislature

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A state bill to increase fire safety and accountability in California cities unanimously passed the state Legislature in August and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

SB 1205 would require fire departments to report annually their compliance with safety building inspection requirements to administering agents, such as city council or district boards. According to a press release, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced the bill after a Bay Area News Group report showed that many schools and apartment buildings in the Bay Area did not receive their annual required fire inspection at least once from 2010 to 2017.

Reporter Thomas Peele of the Bay Area News Group conducted the investigation into building inspections after the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire in 2016, which killed 36 people.

The warehouse did not have sprinklers or fire alarms, violating California’s fire safety code, and had not been inspected by the Oakland Fire Department despite complaints about the warehouse’s fire danger, according to the investigation.

“Current law doesn’t set up a check or balance to determine whether the inspections are being carried out,” Hill said in a press release. “My legislation would address that accountability gap.”

The bill would serve to “remind” cities to inspect their buildings, said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, adding that the bill doesn’t require more inspections.

Worthington noted that for him, inspection and prevention, are crucial when preventing fire and crimes.

“In spite of the fact that it’s statutorily required, there are districts across the state that have failed to do the inspections,” Worthington said.

The Berkeley Fire Department will have to update property inspection data frequently in order to comply with the bill, said Berkeley Fire Department public information officer Keith May in an email.

“SB 1205 can help prevent the heartbreaking loss of life and destruction caused by fires in buildings that do not meet safety standards,” Hill said in the press release.

Contact Alyssa Bernardino and Clara Rodas at [email protected].