On Wednesday, July 26, the California Office of the Attorney General (Attorney General) issued an Opinion answering the question:
Does Health and Safety Code section 13146 prohibit fire protection district chiefs from enforcing the State Fire Marshal’s building standards and regulations as they relate to R-3 dwellings?
The Attorney General confirmed that California Health and Safety Code § 13146 does not prohibit fire protection district chiefs from enforcing the State Fire Marshal’s building standards and regulations as they relate to R-3 dwellings, which “encompasses residential occupancies including single-family homes, as well as a variety of licensed facilities such as adult care centers, day-care centers, foster family homes, and drug recovery homes.”
Section 13146 addresses the authority of fire protection district chiefs to enforce the State Fire Marshal’s building standards and regulations both in general and as those regulations relate to “R-3 dwellings.” In its analysis, it considered the argument that Subdivision (b) of Section 13146 “is mandatory, rather than discretionary, placing a hard limitation on the potential jurisdiction of a fire protection district chief.” It disagreed, construing Subdivision (b)’s exception from the mandate to enforce R-3 dwelling standards and regulations “as a discretionary outlet to prevent unnecessary duplication of enforcement.” It found support for this position in the Legislature’s overall fire protection statutory scheme which generally authorizes fire protection district chiefs “to enforce all relevant standards and regulations within their jurisdictions.” It went onto note that “[o]ur interpretation finds strong support in the broad powers bestowed on fire protection districts under the Fire Protection District Law and related provisions.
In closing, it confirmed that
[I]n enacting the Fire Protection District Law, the Legislature specifically advised a liberal construction of the statute to further the compelling public purposes of universal and efficient fire protection services. Indeed, the legislative findings supporting the law expressly state that ‘it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this part to provide a broad statutory authority for local officials. The Legislature encourages local communities and their officials to adapt the powers and procedures in this part to meet their own circumstances and responsibilities.’