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Pa. city considering new fines for excessive false fire alarms

The new fines would kick in after the third false alarm in a calendar year, starting at $100 for the fourth false alarm, $200 for the fifth and $300 for the sixth and any additional false alarms



Kevin Flowers
Erie Times-News

ERIE, Pa. — The Erie Bureau of Fire typically responds to about 600 false fire and security alarm calls each year at residences and businesses within city limits.

City officials hope that new fines for excessive false alarms, now being considered by Erie City Council, will significantly reduce that number.

City Council, at its regular meeting on Wednesday, gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that puts a new fine structure in place for excessive false alarms that firefighters — or in some cases, city police officers — respond to.

The ordinance stipulates that neither businesses nor residences would be charged for their first three false alarms within a calendar year.

However, a fourth false alarm within the same time frame would result in a $100 fine; the fifth, a $200 fine; and $300 fines are assessed for six or more false alarms in one calendar year.

The current city ordinance on false alarms stipulates there are no fines for three false alarms within a calendar year; a fourth results in a $25 fine; a fifth, a $100 fine; and six or more each result in a $200 fine.

City Council could take a final vote on the new fine structure in July. The new fine structure, which is not in place yet, needs City Council’s OK before it goes into effect.

Erie Fire Chief Joe Walko said he supports the stiffer fines because firefighters must respond to each false alarm call with equipment and resources for what amounts to a non-emergency.

As of June 17, city firefighters have responded to 287 false alarms at residences and businesses in 2021, Walko said.

Walko stressed that the fire bureau takes into account whether a false alarm was caused by inclement weather, equipment malfunctions, electrical failures or “involuntary trips of the alarm,” and in those situations a fine would not be assessed.

“For a residential alarm, we have to send out one fire truck. At a high-rise or an apartment building, a firetruck and a deputy chief respond,” Walko said. “We’re wasting resources chasing after these false alarms, so it’s come to a point where we need this ordinance in place to hopefully decrease them.”

Walko also pointed out that other municipalities in Pennsylvania, as well as some volunteer fire departments, levy fines for excessive false alarms.

City Council president Ed Brzezinski said he supports the changes.

“It costs us money to send a truck to one of these alarms with gas and men and everything else,” Brzezinski said. “It’s just time that we changed this.”


(c)2021 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.)