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Fees for fire inspections to increase

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By Stephanie DeCamp

A fire inspection is mandatory for new construction in commercial and residential structures, and that review is about to cost more.

The Evergreen Fire Protection District board granted Fire Marshal Frank Dearborn's request to increase fees for all commercial and residential fire safety inspections at the board meeting Nov. 12. Currently most fees hover around $75, but with the increase, from $5 to $100 will be added starting in January.

The fee has been increased twice before, in 2004 and 2010, both times when new fire chiefs came into office, Dearborn said.

The inspections authorize projects ranging from installations and renovations to construction and driveways. For private homeowners looking to add on to a home, the inspection is primarily for insurance purposes. Any project over 400 square feet requires an inspection, he said.

Many insurance companies need a letter only, which Dearborn said he doesn't charge for, but anything requiring a site visit entails a fee. It's not unusual for a visit to last an hour, he said, and there's almost always more than one.

A lot is involved in an inspection, he said. Project plans and drawings have to be reviewed, new alarm systems have to be tested, and driveways have to be measured to ensure that there is enough space for a fire engine to pull up to a home or business if it needs to.

“If we go back five times for a project,” he said, “it just costs too much. …It's all of the time and equipment (involved), and the other things we could be doing.”

Dearborn said the suggested increases will bring the fees up to about 80 or 90 percent of what most other departments charge.

If something new such as a ventilation or sprinkler system for a restaurant is being installed, then the installer is responsible for paying the fee. A contractor must pay for a construction site visit and a homeowner for a residential visit.

The new fee suggestions came after surveying what other departments were charging, Dearborn said. Many of them calculate the cost based on an individual evaluation or a project's square footage, but EFPD charges a flat rate.

“A lot of it is because we're going (to a site) three, four or five times for one project to do these special inspections,” he said. “If we only go once, (the current fee) is enough, but if we're going again and again, it's not.”

Contact Stephanie DeCamp at Stephanie@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1043.