NJ DCA Pushing Fire Inspections for Commercial Farm Buildings

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The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, through the Division of Fire Safety, has instructed local fire officials regarding the need to perform annual inspections of all commercial farm buildings.  
The Uniform Fire Safety Act N.J.S.A.52:27D-192 et seq. applies to all buildings, structures, and premises, other than owner-occupied buildings containing fewer than three dwelling units.  This requirement has technically been on the books since 1983, but was never a focus of enforcement by the state or local fire officials.
According to a June letter from NJ Bureau of Fire Code Enforcement Chief Louis Kilmer, "The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety would like to remind Fire Officials of the necessity to perform annual inspections of all commercial farm buildings. One of the areas of primary fire safety concern is farm labor housing. The buildings that are housing workers must comply with the Fire Code.  If the building was built prior to 1977 and does not possess a valid Certificate of Occupancy issued under the Uniform Construction Code, then it must comply with Subchapter 4 Retrofit Code requirements of the Uniform Fire Code."
"Either smoke alarms or an approved smoke detection system will be required depending on the layout of the structure," Kilmer continued. "Emergency lighting, exit signs, and discharge lighting may also be required based on building size and layout.  If any fuel burning equipment is present, carbon monoxide alarms will also be required. All other buildings that are part of the commercial farm must also be inspected and comply with all applicable provisions of the Fire Code."
"The City of Vineland Fire Prevention Office is responsible for the enforcement of the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code," said Vineland Director of Fire Richard G. Franchetta, E.J.D.  
"The Office currently performs approximately 3,000 annual inspections each year on businesses and other buildings throughout the city. Businessowners and property owners pay a minimum yearly registration fee to help cover the cost of the inspections."
To comply with the Division of Fire Safety directive, the Fire Prevention Office has identified potential farm operations within the city based on information provided by the Tax Assessor. The Office will be mailing a registration form to the property owners which includes basic information such as business name, address, emergency contact numbers, number of buildings, number of onsite storage tanks, and whether employees reside on the property. Those which are active working farms are asked to return the registration form within 30 days.
"During the inspection, we point out violations and corrective requirements, and typically property owners have 30 days to take remedial action," said City of Vineland Fire Marshal Michael A. Cifaloglio.  
"Failure to fix the problem may result in the issuance of a penalty.  If no violations are found, or when all violations have been corrected, a 'Certificate of Compliance' is issued."
"However, with that said, we understand that local farms are in their busiest season and our intent is to make this transition as smooth as possible. Our primary concern during the initial inspection will be imminent safety hazards which need to be corrected immediately.  We will work with farm owners on any other violations which are not immediate life-safety issues to provide a reasonable period of time to make corrections while minimizing disruptions to farm operations," Cifaloglio concluded.
The City of Vineland Fire Prevention Office is available to answer any questions or concerns that local farm operators may have regarding the inspection procedure. The number to call is 856.794.4000, ext. 4747.  
The office is open from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.


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