XAVIER BECERRA Attorney General
CATHERINE BIDART Deputy Attorney General
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
July 26, 2017
RUBIN E. CRUSE, Shasta County Counsel, has requested an opinion on the following question:
Does Health and Safety Code section 13146 prohibit fire protection district chiefs from enforcing the State Fire Marshal's building standards and regulations as they relate to R-3 dwellings?
Health and Safety Code section 13146 does not prohibit fire protection district chiefs from enforcing the State Fire Marshal's building standards and regulations as they relate to R-3 dwellings.
A Fire Protection District1
is a public agency, separate from a city or county, that provides fire protection services within a defined geographical area.2
Fire protection districts have chiefs, who are vested with all the powers necessary to carry out the fire and safety purposes of their districts,
including the power to issue citations for violations of fire protection codes and district ordinances.4
Health and Safety Code section 13146 addresses the authority of fire protection district chiefs to enforce the State Fire Marshal's building standards and regulations,5
both in general and as those regulations relate to "R-3 dwellings"—a term that encompasses residential occupancies including single-family homes, as well as a variety of licensed facilities such as adult care centers, day-care centers, foster family homes, and drug recovery homes.6
In this opinion, we consider whether section 13146 is meant to prohibit fire protection district chiefs from enforcing the State Fire Marshal's building standards and regulations as they relate to R-3 dwellings. For the reasons that follow, we find that the statute's language does not compel such an interpretation, and that the statute's context within the state fire protection statutory scheme as a whole counters such an interpretation.
In construing any statute, our purpose is always to give effect to the legislative intent expressed in the statute. We "look first to the words of the statute themselves, giving to the language its usual, ordinary import and according significance, if possible, to every word, phrase and sentence in pursuance of the legislative purpose."7
On the other hand, where ambiguity exists, "consideration should be given to the consequences that will flow from a particular interpretation."8
Also salient to our inquiry here is the principle that statutory language must be read "in the context of the statutory framework as a whole in order to determine its scope and purpose and to harmonize the various parts of the enactment."9
We begin with the text of section 13146, which provides, in relevant part:
The responsibility for enforcement of building standards adopted by the State Fire Marshal and published in the California Building Standards Code relating to fire and panic safety and other regulations of the State Fire Marshal shall be as follows:
(a) The city, county, or city and county with jurisdiction in the area affected by the standard or regulation shall delegate the enforcement of the building standards relating to fire and panic safety and other regulations of the State Fire Marshal as they relate to R-3 dwellings, as described in Section 310.5 of Part 2 of the California Building Standards Code, to either of the following:
(1) The chief of the fire authority of the city, county, or city and county, or his or her authorized representative.
(2) The chief building official of the city, county, or city and county, or his or her authorized representative.
(b) The chief of any city, county, or city and county fire department or of any fire protection district, and their authorized representatives, shall enforce within its jurisdiction the building standards and other regulations of the State Fire Marshal, except those described in subdivision (a) or (d).
(c) The State...