The best way to fight fires is to prevent them before they start. Routine building inspections are one of the most effective ways to do just that. Fire Inspectors inspect commercial buildings and multi-family housing (three or more units) every two years. The purpose of the inspections is two fold:
- To identify and correct violations of the fire code, and
- To educate business and property owners about fire safety
Prior to a periodic inspection (usually every other year), each business will be mailed a letter by first class mail, giving notice of our intent to inspect. Included in the letter is a list of the most commonly found code violations. You are then given at least ten days to find and correct these common problems.
Two types of commercial property inspections
PF&R conducts two types of inspections for commercial and institutional properties.
- Company Fire Inspection Program
- Fire Marshal's Office Code Enforcement Inspection Program
A fee is charged for these two types of fire safety inspections. Either the Company Fire Inspection OR the Fire Marshal’s Office Code Enforcement Inspection will occur for commercial and institutional properties once every two years, depending upon the occupancy type and challenges that a commercial property poses. Note that State licensed institutions require an annual inspection.
Harbor and marine inspections
Portland is blessed with two great rivers, the Columbia and the Willamette. With these resources come special fire safety concerns. The Harbor Master is responsible for inspecting vessels, marinas and waterfront structures including oil terminals, break bulk facilities, wharves, piers, waterfront warehouses, grain elevators, marinas, and hazardous material shipments. Contact the Harbor Master at Sean.Whalen@portlandoregon.gov or call (503) 209-8109.
Request a special inspection
Property and business owners sometimes have safety concerns about their own operation or one that they have observed elsewhere. Please give us a call at (503) 823-3700 and we’ll check it out.
Emergency or "Pre-Fire" planning
A third type of visit, targeted for an annual rotation, is what is termed a “Pre-Fire”. This type of visit is not a fire safety inspection, but is a chance for the local responding fire companies to visit a given location prior to an emergency. These businesses are included in the routine fire safety inspections that PF&R conducts. The Pre-Fire visit is handled at a different time than your Fire Safety Inspection and does not generate a fee. The local fire companies take the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the fire and life safety challenges that a location may present during an emergency response and conduct appropriate pre-fire planning. The firefighters will observe the layout of your property and its current condition. Then, based upon data that has been compiled nationally and internationally about cause and effect, reasonable expectancy and fire risk, they will prepare a pre-fire plan. Pre-fire plans are used during an emergency to help us be both safer and more effective. Again, there is no charge for this type of visit. If the firefighters notice an unsafe condition that needs to be corrected, they are authorized to write an order requesting correction of the violation, and there may be a fee for subsequent reinspections. They will also refer the property to the Fire Marshal’s Office for follow-up.
Items commonly examined during inspections
The inspector will conduct a thorough inspection to ensure satisfactory life safety conditions on your property, examining items such as:
- Condition of exits
- Condition of interior finish
- Operation of exit doors
- Emergency lighting (if present)
- Exit signs (if present)
- Components of fire-resistive construction
- Maintenance of fire apparatus access roadways
- Maintenance of fire lanes
- Proper addressing of the building
- Fire extinguishers available and showing current service dates
- Building exit discharge areas
- Records for fire alarm and fire protection systems
- Test records for smoke management system (if present)
- Emergency evacuation plan (if one exists or is required).
If any conditions are found that violate the fire codes, could cause a fire, or endanger life or property, the inspector will notify you and issue an inspection report requiring that the condition be corrected. A reinspection will usually be scheduled on or after 40 days. Serious life-safety issues may be reinspected in as little as one day. The inspection report will include instructions for appealing the notice if you wish to do so. However, filing an appeal does not delay enforcement of the order. The inspection report will also include instructions for requests for time extensions to accomplish work as directed by the order.
Failure to correct violations
Failure to correct these types of violations shall result in an additional fee for each class of violation, as set forth in Portland City Code Title 31. While not necessary, you also have the option to schedule an appointment for a more convenient time to meet with your Fire Inspector. Click here to access of list of common violations found during inspections.
Why is there a charge?
Prior to July 1, 1999, the City provided the initial Fire Safety Inspections at no charge to the customer. Due to limited resources and staffing, it became apparent that a number of buildings within the City’s jurisdiction could not be inspected on a routine basis. The purpose of establishing fees for fire safety inspections has been to supplement General Fund resources to provide an enhanced level of inspection service.
How much is the fee?
The fee for your fire safety inspection is based upon a fee schedule that takes into consideration your occupancy type, use, and square footage. For a copy of the current fee schedule, or any questions regarding the fee structure, please call the Prevention Division at 503-823-3700. If any fire code violations are found during the inspection, they will be noted and you will be given a period of time to correct them. A follow-up reinspection will be scheduled to confirm that all violations have been corrected. A separate fee is assessed for reinspections, as well as fines for items that are not corrected prior to the time of the reinspection. You will receive an invoice for the inspection fee within 40 days of the first inspection. Should an invoice remain unpaid for 84 days from the date of the original invoice, it will be sent to our collection agency for processing and will incur additional fees.