§ 23-28.2-14. Enforcement.
(a) Within the office of the state fire marshal, there shall be an enforcement unit responsible for the initiation of criminal prosecution of or civil proceedings against any person(s) in violation of the state Fire Safety Code or failure to comply with an order to abate conditions that constitute a violation of the Fire Safety Code, chapters 28.1 — 28.39 of this title, and any rules or regulations added thereunder and/or the general public laws of the state as they relate to fires, fire prevention, fire inspections, and fire investigations. This unit will consist of the state fire marshal, chief deputy state fire marshal, chief of technical services, explosive technician, assistant explosive technicians, and the arson investigative staff, each of whom must satisfactorily complete at the Rhode Island state police training academy an appropriate course of training in law enforcement or must have previously completed a comparable course. To fulfill their responsibilities, this unit shall have and may exercise in any part of the state all powers of sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, town sergeants, chiefs of police, police officers, and constables.
(b) The State Fire Marshal shall have the power to implement a system of enforcement to achieve compliance with the fire safety code, which shall include inspections as provided for in § 23-28.2-20, the issuance of formal notices of violation in accordance with § 23-28.2-20.1, and the issuance of citations in a form approved by the State Fire Marshal and the Chief Judge of the District Court. The State Fire Marshal, and his or her designee(s) as outlined in this chapter, may use the above systems of enforcement individually or in any combination to enforce the State Fire Safety Code.
(c) The State Fire Marshal and all persons designated specifically in writing by the State Fire Marshal shall have the power to issue the citations referenced in this chapter.
(d) The following categories of violation of the Fire Safety Code that can be identified through inspection shall be considered criminal violations of the Fire Safety Code and be subject to the above issuance of citations:
(1) Impediments to Egress:
(A) Exit doors locked so as to prevent egress.
(B) Blocked means of egress (other than locking and includes any portion of the exit access, exit or exit discharge).
(C) Marking of exits or the routes to exits has become obstructed and is not clearly visible.
(D) Artificial lighting needed for orderly evacuation is not functioning properly (this section does not include emergency lighting).
(A) Required devices, equipment, system, condition, arrangement, or other features not continuously maintained.
(B) Equipment requiring periodic testing or operation, to ensure its maintenance, is not being tested or operated.
(C) Owner of building where a fire alarm system is installed has not provided written evidence that there is a testing and maintenance program in force providing for periodic testing of the system.
(D) Twenty-four-hour emergency telephone number of building owner or owner’s representative is not posted at the fire alarm control unit or the posted number is not current.
(3) Fire Department Access and Water Supply:
(A) The required width or length of a previously approved fire department access road (fire lane) is obstructed by parked vehicles or other impediments.
(B) Fire department access to fire hydrants or other approved water supplies is blocked or impeded.
(4) Fire Protection Systems:
(A) Obstructions are placed or kept near fire department inlet connections or fire protection system control valves preventing them from being either visible or accessible.
(B) The owner, designated agent, or occupant of the property has not had required fire extinguishers inspected, maintained, or recharged.
(5) Admissions supervised:
(A) Persons responsible for supervising admissions to places of assembly, and/or any sub-classifications thereof, have allowed admissions in excess of the maximum occupancy posted by the State Fire Marshal or his or her designee.
The terms used in the above categories of violation are defined in the definition sections of NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 as adopted pursuant to § 23-28.1-2.
(e) A building owner, responsible management, designated agent, or occupant of the property receiving a citation may elect to plead guilty to the violation(s) and pay the fine(s) through the mail within ten (10) days of issuance, or appear in district court for an arraignment on the citation.
(f) Notwithstanding subsection (e), all recipients of third or subsequent citations, within a sixty-month (60) period, shall appear in district court for a hearing on the citation. If not paid by mail he, she, or it shall appear to be arraigned on the criminal complaint on the date indicated on the citation. If the recipient(s) fails to appear, the district court shall issue a warrant of arrest.
(g) The failure of a recipient to either pay the citation through the mail within ten (10) days, where permitted under this section, or to appear in district court on the date specified shall be cause for the district court to issue a warrant of arrest with the penalty assessed and an additional five hundred dollar ($500) fine.
(h) A building owner, responsible management, designated agent, or occupant of the property who receives the citation(s) referenced in this section shall be subject to civil fine(s), which fine(s) shall be used for fire prevention purposes by the jurisdiction that issues the citation(s), as follows:
(1) A fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for the first violation within any sixty-month (60) period;
(2) A fine of five hundred dollars ($500) for the second violation within any sixty-month (60) period;
(3) A fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the third and any subsequent violation(s) within any sixty-month (60) period;
(i) No citation(s) as defined in this section, shall be issued pursuant to a search conducted under an administrative search warrant secured pursuant to § 23-28.2-20(c) of this code. Any citation mistakenly issued in violation of subsection (h)(3)(i) shall be void and unenforceable.
(j) The District Court shall have full equity power to hear and address these matters.
(k) All violations, listed within subsection (d) above, shall further be corrected within a reasonable period of time established by the State Fire Marshal, or his or her designee.
History of Section.
P.L. 1975, ch. 165, § 9; P.L. 1980, ch. 278, § 1; P.L. 2003, ch. 106, § 4; P.L. 2003, ch. 107, § 4; P.L. 2004, ch. 220, § 3; P.L. 2004, ch. 225, § 3; P.L. 2018, ch. 47, art. 3, § 4.