Fines on the way for fire code violations in Bremerton

The Bremerton City Council approved an ordinance to update the Bremerton Municipal Code Wednesday that defines monetary fines for specific violations to the City Fire Code including illegal burning and false fire alarms.

As the code stood, those violations didn’t have a specific monetary amount tied to them. The offender would go to the city hearing examiner who would then impose a fine if deemed fit.

“The fees we are proposing are much less. The benefit is a simplified process,” Bremerton Fire Marshal Mike Six said Tuesday.

He added that when going through the hearing examiner and if a fee were to incur, the standard was $500 a day per violation.

The new proposed ordinance defined that for illegal burning, a fine of up to $250 may be assessed and $200 for false fire alarms. It would take effect 10 days after its passage and approval.

“My thought is to start at $25 to $50,” said Six about fees to violations of the fire code. “We’ll start out low while getting the message ‘hey, we’re going to do this.’”

Six said that illegal burning in Bremerton — including that of used oil, garbage, or lumber from a construction site — is very common. The duty chief told Six of an incident Sunday where someone had burned dirty diapers and garbage. The incident of solely burning garbage is at a count of 10 this year, he added.

“We’re talking blatant issues. We’re not talking someone roasting hot dogs,” Six said.

Jacqueline Moore, a Bremerton resident of 12 years, said that hopefully the fines tied to specific violations such as illegal burning will combat pollution because there would be fewer incidents of burning garbage.

Where Moore lives, on the west side of the city, she said she has never noticed any problems of illegal burning in her neighborhood. But she added that it may because she lives in an apartment complex.

Although the proposed updates to fine people during already difficult economic times for many, Moore doesn’t see a concern.

“It’s hard times but if you’re not going to abide by the law, you pay for your mistakes,” she said.

As for false fire alarms, Six said he estimates about 200 to 300 incidents occur in a year. Having the fine will hopefully encourage people to fix their faulty fire alarm systems, said Six, adding that the penalty can be reduced after showing proof that the system has been fixed. For situations like if a child pulls a fire alarm at a grocery store, fines are not incurred, he added.

The ordinance first came through the City Council’s Public Safety and Parks Committee, said councilmember Jim McDonald, who is the committee chair.

“It’s just to encourage people to take care of those problems,” McDonald said.

If people are fined, they can still appeal through the hearing examiner, McDonald added.

Other fines include up to $125 for repeat fire code violations and $1,000 for violations to the certification of fire alarm programming or testing.

There is no anticipated revenue from these new fees, said Six. He added that it may peak at the beginning just because it is new but it wouldn’t be a sustained revenue.

Money from the fees would go to the city’s general fund, said Six and McDonald.

“We just want people to be safe and motivators are a way to get there,” Six said. “We tried without and it didn’t work.”

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