So what exactly is a fire lane? Through out most of the United States, a fire lane is a specially marked lane that gives fire trucks unobstructed emergency access to a building. Fire lanes can be found on the street near large buildings or in a parking lot of an apartment building, retail shop, or other structure.
Fire lanes can be identified in different ways. In my city, fire lanes on public property are designated by a red curb. On private property, the curbs are usually painted yellow with stenciled warnings and signs that read “No Parking – Fire Lane”. In large parking lots, the lanes are often striped with diagonal yellow lines spaced six feet apart and signed as well.
No matter how the fire lane is signed however, the message should be pretty clear that parking is not allowed. So who do you call when a fire lane is perpetually blocked by a tenant, visitor, or business owner? Here are four options.
The building owner
The owner of the building is ultimately responsible for any violations on his property. If you see a tenant habitually parking in the fire lane, a call to the building owner will usually bring this to a stop.
The police department
Some police departments will ticket violators as they see them, others won’t issue tickets unless the property owner calls and requests it. Business owners who find an unknown vehicle blocking their fire lane can call the police department to have the vehicle cited and towed.
The fire department
So what do you do if it’s the owner of the building who is regularly blocking the fire lane? A call to the city Fire Marshall will solve this problem. The fire department enforces the fire code and will have a talk with the owner about the penalties of blocking a fire lane. It’s been my experience that once they receive a complaint, the fire department will follow up several times to make sure that the issue has been permanently solved.
City Code enforcement
When all else fails, a last resort is to call the City Code enforcement division of Planning and Zoning. In many cities, commercial structures and apartment buildings have to follow a building code which often includes provisions for a marked fire lane. An owner is in violation of the building code will be given a warning the first time by the Code Enforcement officers; repeated offenders may be fined and could even lose their occupancy permit if the lanes continue to be blocked.
While a blocked fire lane may seem like a little thing, it could make the difference in how quickly the fire department can respond to an emergency. These four resources are who to call the next time you encounter a blocked fire lane around your building.