Alarm fines begin this month in Steamboat

Owners of faulty systems get August reprieve from nuisance law

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— Two properties would have been fined for faulty fire alarms and four for faulty intrusion alarms during August, but for a one-month grace period.

Now that the grace period has ended, fire and police forces can begin issuing the fines, starting at $200 and increasing by $100 for each subsequent offense, for false alarm calls in Steamboat Springs.

Fire Marshal Jay Muhme, one of the main authors of the law, said there were 30 false fire alarm calls in August.

Of those, one property in the city and one property out of the city but within the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue district had two calls apiece. Those numbers, he said, are lower than he expected.

“Actually, it was down quite a bit,” he said. “I was surprised.”

He said alarm company owners and alarm managers are starting to call him to ask what they need to do to keep the number of false alarm calls down.

His suggestion is to keep fire alarms free of debris with regular maintenance — annually in some cases, or as often as monthly for alarms that are more likely to get dirty.

Muhme said he did not have the figures about how many false alarm calls would have been charged in previous months, but he said August numbers seemed to be a decrease.

He also did not have the addresses of the false alarms available.

Joel Rae, Steamboat Springs Police Department patrol captain, said officers responded to 33 false intrusion alarms in August, a decrease from the 42 alarms in August 2009.

Of the 33 calls, 27 would have received warning letters, he said, and four of the properties would have been fined.

Of those four, officers responded to two of them twice and two of them three times.

If the fine system had been active, those businesses with three calls would have been fined a total of $500 each, $200 for the first alarm and $300 for the second.

The number of false alarm calls is counted during a 12-month period, Muhme said, so he will be counting the number of false alarms the property has had in the previous 12 months every time a fine is assessed.

The fine amount increases by $100 for every call, with no limit.

The lieutenant or officer in charge at the scene will determine the person charged in the case of a false alarm.

If a contractor fails to cover a smoke detector before creating a large amount of dust and sets off the alarm, for example, the contractor may be charged instead of the property owner.

Muhme said he would be “fairly flexible” on fines for the next couple of months, but Rae said fines would be implemented as they are called for as of Sept. 1.

No fines had been issued in the first week of the month.

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