County Fire Marshal’s Office Enforcing State Standards
Long Beach Island — The year 2019 brought stringent changes to the way fire inspections are done for both commercial buildings and residential rental units. On Long Beach Island, some business owners have said new procedures came to light during inspections in September, and they are an eye-opener.
“It’s going to be very expensive for all business owners,” said one small retail shop owner, who preferred not to be named in print.
The owner said the cost to comply could run into the thousands of dollars, in their case. Changes are required and must be re-certified every year, which is a first.
The matter is enforcement of new state law, N.J. Uniform Fire Code requirements as of Jan. 1, 2019. The county is now taking over the procedure to perform the inspections.
“The towns were supposed to be doing them; now we signed agreements with all the towns on Long Beach Island,” John Pasola, deputy Ocean County fire marshal, told The SandPaper last week.
Covered is smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and portable fire extinguisher compliance inspection. That includes businesses, whose guidelines are separate from the fire safety devices that are required in specific places in residential rentals.
“For (rental) homes, we’re doing smoke detector inspections; we’re doing rentals in all the towns minus Beach Haven, and we’re doing rentals and resales in Harvey Cedars,” Pasola said. (Surf City is among towns that will continue to do resale inspections through the borough.)
Pasola said, “On Long Beach Island, we have a signed agreement with the towns that we’re doing the code inspections along with the fire alarm inspections. If there’s a fire alarm, we’re requesting paperwork from the alarm company and/or a licensed electrician that it is a properly working fire alarm. For a sprinkler system, we get a test report from the sprinkler company that it’s been inspected each calendar year and it’s in properly working order.”
The Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office is now performing the local fire code enforcement for 11 municipalities; Barnegat Light, Beach Haven, Bay Head, Harvey Cedars, Lakewood, Long Beach Township, Point Pleasant Borough, Seaside Park, Ship Bottom, South Toms River and Surf City.
“Duties in these municipalities include fire inspections of commercial establishments, enforcement of the state fire code and investigation of fires.”
Regarding rental inspections, “This year is the first year that the county was executing the rental fire inspections,” said Christine Hannemann, deputy clerk for Surf City.
In Long Beach Township, Surf City and other towns, a letter was sent to all property owners explaining the state law for residential properties, under the Uniform Fire Safety Code.
Long Beach Township’s legal notice went out in January 2019.
“Please be advised that if you are planning on selling, leasing, or renting your property, you must contact the Office of the Ocean County Fire Marshal … to apply for a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm and portable fire extinguisher inspection in your residence and to obtain a certificate of compliance prior to any change of occupancy or the commencement of the lease or rental of your property as required by the Uniform Fire Safety Code,” read the letter of explanation, signed by Mayor Joseph Mancini. The letter was identical to the one sent to Surf City property owners, as another example.
It continued, “The Uniform Fire Safety Code requires that the Office of the Ocean County Fire Marshal conduct an inspection of your residence to enforce smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and portable fire extinguisher compliance before a certificate of compliance will be issued.
“All residential property owners of record are legally required to obtain this certificate of compliance from the Office of the Ocean County Fire Marshal prior to the lease or rental of their property as required by the Uniform Fire Safety Code.
“If you are renting your property on a seasonal basis, you must apply for a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and portable fire extinguisher inspection of your residence and obtain a certificate of compliance annually.”
For instance, effective Jan. 1, 2019, all battery-operated smoke detectors must be a 10 year sealed battery unit.
A web page of the Ocean County Fire Marshal, within the county sheriff’s office, lists more details. The website is ocean.nj.us/OCsheriff/FireMarshalCP.aspx.
Some commercial building owners said post-summer that the inspections are stringent and call for new action that had not been required or inspected in recent years.
“We were inspected initially for our C.O., and we have an up-and-running fire system, but when Surf City passed the inspections over to Ocean County, Ocean County has a whole set of different standards,” one owner said. “We need to have our system monitored … and it has to be inspected every year and we have to have a certificate saying it is.”
They had 30 days to become compliant, and if they can show compliance is in progress, another 30 days. After 90 days, a $500 fine ensues. Inspection fees were also in force.
Separately, the letters that went out from municipalities to residential property owners referred questions to the Office of the Ocean County Fire Marshal at 732-929-2088.
— Maria Scandale