After our Island experienced a tragic fire in a duplex last Memorial Day weekend that took one life and injured two others, our Fire District Fire Marshal Ron Martin vowed to do everything possible to make sure that never happens again. Since then he has worked on developing public service announcements on fire safety and focused on developing a new Fire Safety Ordinance that would provide for the registration and inspection of transient, vacation, short term and timeshare rentals and non-owner occupied two family homes.
The Fire Board has been fine-tuning the ordinance for several months and will bring it to a Public Hearing on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 10am at Station 31, 3043 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach. A copy of the full ordinance is available at the Fire District Administration offices at 100 Voorhis St, Fort Myers Beach or on the District’s website: fmbfire.org
The ordinance will require any property that qualifies as transient, vacation, short term, time-share or non-owner occupied 2 family homes to register within 120 days. Registration will require the full legal name and contact information for the property owner or local responsible party including phone number, mailing address and email contact. The owner or responsible party will be expected to be available via phone, email or in person within 72 hours of a Fire District request. The registration fee is $25.
Once registered, properties should be made available for Fire Inspection on 30 days notice. Any imminent hazard violations found must be fixed within 72 hours. All other violations must be fixed within 45 days.
While the Fire Marshal and Fire Prevention Bureau of the Fire District is most interested in helping property owners come into compliance, there are penalties spelled out in the ordinance. Penalties for non-compliance begin with a written warning for a first offense; $250 fine on the property owner for a second offense; $500 fine for a third offense and notification to the Division of Business and Professional Regulation on the fourth offense.
The ordinance calls for posting of occupant load signage. The Florida Uniform Fire Safety Rules state that occupant load is determined by dividing the gross floor area by 150 square feet. For instance a 1500 square foot home would have a maximum occupant load of 10.
What does transient mean? According to Florida Statute 509.013, transient means rentals of 30 days or one month or less.
Who’s excluded? All homes not advertised to the public as transient, vacation, short term or timeshare rentals. Also two family homes where the owner occupies one unit for a minimum of six months/year.
Fire Prevention Specialist Bill Genevrino talked with the Sand Paper about what inspectors will be looking for during the Fire Inspections.
“We’ll want to see an ABC extinguisher, one per unit. There should also be a smoke detector in each bedroom and egress lighting. We’ll also want to make sure that extension cords and power strips are not overloaded and there are no bare wires.
“Our goal is really always been Fire and Life Safety – we’ve kept the registration fee low and we really want to make it easy for people to comply,’ Genevrino said. “This ordinance is not a revenue producing machine – it’s about fire and life safety.”
He explained that even residents who do not rent but live near rentals would benefit from this ordinance. Mentioning the high number of older wood frame houses on the island and the small setbacks in many neighborhoods, he said if your house is close to one that is a rental, you’ll benefit if that rental has had a fire inspection. Keeping residents and visitors safe is a priority for inspectors.
“It’s about saving lives.”