State Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Bill Compelling Fire Departments to Report on Compliance with State Fire Inspection Laws to Their Local Governments

June 07, 2018

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – Thursday, June 7, 2018
Media Contact – Leslie Guevarra, 415-298-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov

State Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Bill Compelling Fire Departments to Report on Compliance with State Fire Inspection Laws to Their Local Governments

Legislation Addresses Accountability Gaps Revealed by News Investigation Disclosing Failures to Annually Inspect Schools, Apartment Buildings

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill introduced legislation today to require fire departments to report to their city council or county board of supervisors on compliance with state laws that mandate annual inspections of schools, apartment buildings, hotels and motels.

“The state Legislature has established the importance of these inspections by requiring them by law,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “But current law doesn’t set up a check or balance to determine whether the inspections are being carried out. My legislation would address that accountability gap by ensuring that local governing bodies – the city councils or boards of supervisors – are aware of whether their fire departments are complying with the law and whether annual inspections have been conducted at the schools, apartment buildings and other structures in their communities.”

Senate Bill 1205 would require fire departments and fire districts to make their reports each year when their city councils or county boards of supervisors are engaged in annual budget discussions.

“This would help bring sharper focus to the conversation about local fire safety, prevention and performance,” said Senator Hill, who served as San Mateo mayor and as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the state Legislature. “SB 1205 can help prevent the heartbreaking loss of life and destruction caused by fires in buildings that do not meet safety standards.”

Senator Hill introduced the bill in response to a news investigation by the Bay Area News Group that found 97 percent of the schools in communities served by 11 large Bay Area fire departments had gone more than a year without being inspected at least once from 2010 to 2017. According to the news report, 93 percent of apartment buildings, hotels and motels went more than a year without inspection. Only the Sunnyvale Fire Department inspected 100 percent of the schools in its jurisdiction last year and had the lowest percentage of apartments, less than 5 percent, that were late in being inspected. The report added that few of the fire departments, and apparently few if any of the cities, were aware of the extent of the problem.

SB 1205, previously an unrelated bill, was rewritten to accommodate the legislation introduced today. The new bill language will be available at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/  within 24 hours.

Originally, SB 1205 proposed that gas and electrical utilities be required to report to the California Public Utilities Commission any potential violation that could result in a significant threat to public or system safety. Adopting the position advanced by Senator Hill, the CPUC decided on May 31 to require such reports from utilities on urgent safety situations.

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