New law reduces county fire inspections
By Nancy Cook Lauer
West Hawaii Today
HILO, Hawaiçi County fire chiefs maintain that public safety won't be jeopardized even though fire inspections will be reduced dramatically under a bill Gov. Linda Lingle signed this week.
The bill, SB 564, reduces fire inspections of public buildings from once every two years to once every five. The State Fire Council requested the change, saying the state is growing faster than are county fire departments, making it hard to keep up with inspections.
Hawaiçi County Fire Chief Daryl Oliveira endorsed the change in a letter to state lawmakers.
"Thorough and complete fire inspections reduce the risk of fire but are time-consuming because repeated follow-up inspections are conducted until compliance is achieved," Oliveira said in the letter. "Fire departments can utilize their limited resources most efficiently and effectively by focusing on higher-risk occupancies, such as assemblies and high-rises."
Oliveira did not return phone calls for comment Friday.
The bill enjoyed unanimous support throughout the legislative process.
Rep. Faye Hanohano, D-Puna, Pahoa, Hawaiian Acres, chairwoman of the House Public Safety Committee, said she supported giving fire departments more flexibility. There were some caveats, however.
"Concerns have been raised regarding reducing the number of fire safety inspections for facilities such as hospitals and care homes that deal with highly flammable substances such as oxygen and whose residents may have impaired abilities to evacuate in an emergency situation," she said.
The National Fire Protection Act directive 1, Uniform Fire Code does not give a recommended frequency of inspections, but leaves inspection frequency up to the authority having jurisdiction.
A quick Web survey shows that annual inspections seem to be the norm among mainland fire departments.