Lloydminster’s new fire Chief Jordan Newton is hoping that proposed changes to the city’s fire bylaw will reduce the number of false alarms, which totalled over 300 in 2014.
“It’s been a growing trend,” Newton said. “As a volunteer department it’s hard, but we are responding.”
At its July 27 meeting, Lloydminster city council approved a recommendation to instruct the office of the city clerk to prepare an updated fire bylaw. These updates include a new fine for repeated false alarms. After one false alarm, the owner will receive a warning, but more than one false alarm within a calendar year results in a $250 “fee for service.”
“That is just to curb the excess false alarms that we are receiving now with the growth of residential house alarms as well as commercial (alarms),” Newton said.
“They happen for all different reasons, whether the keyholder does not answer their phone, from cooking ... or they’re simply out of town or the security company just didn’t call them.”
Last year there were over 300 false alarms, with 295 coming from alarm companies dispatching fire service in response to fire and carbon monoxide detectors going off. Alarm companies are supposed to check with the building owner before alerting the fire department, but sometimes the owner cannot be reached.
Newton says responding to false alarms costs needed resources, but the department is more concerned about public safety.
“Having to drive across town quickly with lights on puts everyone at risk when it’s nothing but somebodies burned supper,” he said.
The bylaw would also fine licenced establishments which exceed their occupancy loads and improperly maintain their fire safeguards. Those businesses would now face a $5,000 fine for “Knowingly allowing the occupation of any building or structure in which the fire safeguards are not functioning or are functioning in a diminished capacity.”
Exceeding occupancy limits would result in a fine of $2,500 per first, second and third noncompliance inspection, followed by a $5,000 fee exceeding a third inspection. Those regulations have already been in place but the fines are new.
The bylaw would also prohibit open air burning and the burning of dangerous goods on structures attached to buildings, like patios.
“High-hazard fireworks,” the kinds that are used at large public events, would need to be approved by the fire chief and the fire department would also have to be informed when hazardous material tanks, like the tanks below gas stations or bulk facilities, are installed or maintenance is being performed.