Fire Prevention Division
The Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services – Fire Prevention Division, is primarily responsible for programs, procedures, and projects for preventing the outbreak of fires within the unincorporated areas of the county and for minimizing the danger to persons and damage to property caused by fires that do occur. In addition to code enforcement, the Fire Prevention Division staff is responsible for hazardous materials incident response, fire investigations and emergency scene management support at emergencies.
The Fire Prevention Division consists of three full-time staff, and three “extra-help” staff, broken down as follows: The Fire Marshal, (who reports to the County Fire Chief), two Fire Inspectors, and three Extra-Help Fire Inspectors that are used occasionally. It is the duty of the Fire Marshal to administer the overall activities of the Fire Prevention Division, assist other fire agencies, and interact with other county agencies that affect fire prevention matters such as the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).
The routine services that the Fire Prevention Division staff provides to the community are typically related to: hazardous materials incidents response, emergency scene management, fire investigations and code enforcement within the unincorporated areas of the county and within the areas of contract agencies.
Hazardous Materials Incidents Response
The Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services assumes one of the lead agency roles in protecting the community from risks associated with storage, use, and transportation of hazardous materials. The full-time fire prevention staff takes part in an on-call rotation and provides primary response to hazardous materials incidents within all of the unincorporated area of the county, as well as some incorporated areas.
Emergency Scene Management
An incident management system must be provided to form the basic structure of all emergency operations regardless of the scale of the emergency. An effective incident management system must be utilized to manage incidents of different types, including structure fires, wildland fires, hazardous materials incidents, emergency medical operations, and other types of emergencies that might be handled by the department.
The full-time fire prevention staff (including the Fire Marshal) takes part in an on-call rotation and provides emergency scene management at all but the most routine emergencies within the County Service Area-40.
All fires must be investigated to determine the origin and cause of the fire. If the fire is determined to be incendiary or suspicious, a full investigation must be initiated. The fire prevention staff is responsible for determining the cause and origin of fires within the County Service Area-40. Staff may also be called upon to assist other fire agencies with fire investigations as part of a countywide agreement. Fire prevention staff members also provide fire investigation assistance to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department when requested.
The Fire Prevention Division is responsible for the adoption and enforcement of the Sonoma County Fire Safety Ordinance, as well as enforcement of other fire safety regulations. The Fire Prevention Division strives to examine areas within County Service Area-40, and within Fire Protection Districts (through contract with the Fire Prevention Division) in which a significant fire problem could develop. Personnel inspect real property with an emphasis on those occupancies subject to a high level of hazard to life and property.
For new construction projects, enforcement of the fire code is concurrent with enforcement of the building code, beginning when an application for a building permit is received, and concluding with a final occupancy approval.
Enforcement of the fire code is conducted by fire prevention staff in cooperation with building and community development (Permit and Resource Management Department) staff, and local fire agency representatives (when applicable - i.e. within fire protection districts) and involves the following typical activities:
- Pre-construction meetings
- Customer Service Counter staffing
- Fire Code Plan Review – new buildings/projects, environmental impact reports, subdivision applications, etc.
- Field inspections related to new projects - access inspections, fire protection system inspections, vegetation management plans, etc
- Vegetation Management Plan development
- Inspections of Licensed Care Facilities upon request from California Dept. of Social Services
- Annual and tri-annual occupancy inspections – mandated, routine and contract.
- Parking citations where fire department access is compromised
- Special event permit review and inspections – including Infineon Raceway
- Citizen complaint follow-ups – including vegetation management (“weeds”)
- Code enforcement following a Notice & Order
- Other projects and duties as assigned