Avoid These 11 Common Fire Code Violations in California

Posted On: November 24th, 2021

Being a building or business owner comes with a great deal of responsibility, particularly regarding fire protection and following the appropriate fire codes. Not only do you have a legal obligation to conform to the applicable fire codes, but you have a moral obligation too.

Today we are looking at common fire code violations in California, including areas you may have missed and how to remedy them.


Fire Code Category Violations

Maintaining your fire protection at all times is of vital importance. Ideally, it shouldn’t be something that you do simply to pass an inspection. That said, by looking at the categories in which premises normally experience code violations during an inspection, we can identify several categories that should be checked and rectified right away.

These are:

  1. Fire alert devices – Normally, items that monitor and make you aware of the presence of smoke and fire.
  2. Fire suppressing equipment – This can be equipment that will prevent a fire from spreading fully.
  3. Sprinklers – fixed water-based fire suppressing systems.
  4. Safety Equipment – Portable fire extinguishers, signage, and personal protective equipment.


11 Common Fire Code Violations

Now that we have seen the four categories that are normally inspected and subject to code violations, let’s go into more detail about specific areas that commonly fail.

Fire Alert Devices

1. Smoke Detectors

When was the last time your smoke alarm batteries were changed? If the answer is “I don’t know,” then it is something you need to address right away. Neglected, damaged, or unserviceable smoke detectors are a major risk.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that this can be easily rectified in a matter of minutes.

2. Fire Alarms

Alarm systems need to be working at all times and must be tested regularly. The inspector will ask to see a log of your recent inspections. It can be a serious code violation if you can’t provide proof of a well-maintained system.

You can read more about commercial fire alarm systems here.


Fire Suppression Equipment

3. Hood Suppression – Catering Companies Take Note!

These systems filter grease and fumes from the air. However, this can accumulate within the hood, presenting a significant fire risk.

Fire hood suppression systems need to be regularly cleaned and maintained. It is a common cause of fire code violations in catering premises.


Sprinklers and Water-Based Systems

4. Sprinklers

Sprinklers often get neglected due to their location. After all, who normally things to look up and check overhead pipes?

The bad news is that if they aren’t inspected, they can accumulate grime and dirt, which will block the sprinkler head. Another common code violation is when they have been inadvertently painted over.

You have to be careful when cleaning them, though, as rough handling can cause inadvertent damage.

5. Don’t Leave it Hanging

While convenient, sprinkler head and pipe systems have one real job and one job only. To put out a fire!

There is a temptation to hang things on these pipes but be warned, anything hanging from the sprinkler system can result in a code violation. Fortunately, this is an easy fix.

6. Everything Clear?

To work effectively, sprinklers need room to disperse. Anything that will block the jets of water could lead to a code violation.

It may be tempting to use all of the available space in rooms for storage. Still, piling boxes or materials high could be problematic.

NFPA 25 gives details of how much clearance is required in a given space for sprinklers.

7. Fire Pumps and Risers

If a fire breaks out in your building, the emergency services must have clear access to a steady water supply. Normally this is achieved by risers being located in areas that a hose otherwise couldn’t reach.


There is a key term in the above – “Clear access.”

A common fire code validation in California is when building or business owners use riser rooms for storing items. Again this is a really easy fix.

8. Hydrant Access

Water access is just as important outside the building as it is within.

Fire hydrants tend to be located pretty close to access points. These areas are normally just as convenient for other things that could lead to a fire code violation.


  • Parked vehicles
  • Trash
  • Foliage
  • Discarded packaging
  • Other equipment

If any of the above is blocking hydrant access, now is the time to act.


Safety Equipment

9. Fire Alarm Activation Switches

Whether it is a pull cord or a ‘break glass’ switch, it must be in full working order and easily accessible. It is all too easy to place an item of furniture or office equipment in front of a fire alarm switch.

Again, this is a common fire code violation that really doesn’t need to happen.

10. Exits and Lighting

As part of your fire response plan, you’ll need to have a clear path to escape and signage and lighting showing people the way. It is no use practicing a fire response plan, only for that plan to be thwarted by obstructions.

Fire doors, in particular, are a common violation of the fire code. Depending on where they are located, it may be a requirement that they are unlocked at all times. Sometimes it may be a requirement that they are not propped open.

Do you know which is which?

11. Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers, while relatively straightforward in operation, can be a common area for fire code violations. You need to ensure that you have the correct type of fire extinguisher fitted in the right environment.

And there is more.

Fire extinguishers don’t have an unlimited shelf life. The good news is that you may not need to ‘buy new’. Instead, ensure that they are inspected and passed as serviceable to avoid a fire code violation.


The Easy Answer to All of the Above Fire Code Violations

That’s some list. While several are easy fixes, other areas might require specialist help.

Fraker Fire Protection can offer consultations in the California area. As part of the service, we can address all of the above fire code violations to be corrected before an inspection. We also offer advice on sprinkler systems, fire suppression systems, and alarms.

Why not contact us today to ensure you are fully compliant.

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