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Esquimalt's repeat false fire alarm offenders to pay

New bylaw states $200 fines will start with fourth repeat alarm

Repeat false fire alarms will start costing some Esquimalt property owners.

In an effort to cut down on wasted time and expense when firefighters race off to false alarms at the same properties, on Monday council approved changes to the township’s false alarm bylaw.

In 2011, Esquimalt firefighters responded to 95 false alarms, including seven false alarms at the same address, Esquimalt fire Chief David Ward told council last week.

Saanich approved a similar bylaw seven years ago, helping offset the cost of repeat nuisance calls at the University of Victoria, he said.

“The fire prevention division has been sensitive to concerns relating to the possibility of owners or occupants silencing alarms to avoid fines,” Ward said.

False alarms typically sound off during mechanical and power failures and from user error, atmospheric conditions and vibrations during construction, Ward said in his report.

"Unnecessary emergency responses pose a threat to public safety and first responders, and may also delay fire and emergency responses to true emergencies," he wrote, adding crews also waste time waiting for an owner to arrive to the property where the alarm is going off.

Owners or occupants will be billed $200 per alarm after three false alarms from the same system within a 12-month period.

Esquimalt's new false fire alarm bylaw, which carries financial penalties for repeat offenders, excludes single-family homes. It primarily applies to apartment blocks and condominium complexes.

And if the property owner doesn’t show up at the property within 30 minutes of being notified they could face a $500 hourly standby fee – what it costs to deploy four firefighters and a fire truck.