Calgary

Fire safety company, stores slapped with dozens of charges after 'unqualified' people installed alarm systems

The Calgary Fire Department has slapped a fire safety company — and some of its customers — with dozens of charges under the Alberta Fire Code for using "unqualified and uncertified persons" for installations.

Fines range from $100,000 for 1st offences up to $500,000 for subsequent convictions

The 65 charges against Premium Fire Protection Ltd. and 10 of its employees came after a seven-month investigation by Calgary Fire Safety Codes officers. (David Bell/CBC)

The Calgary Fire Department has slapped a fire safety company — and some of its customers — with dozens of charges under the Alberta Fire Code for using "unqualified and uncertified persons" for installations.

The code violations relate to the installation of fire alarm and voice communications systems, portable fire extinguishers and special fire suppression systems.

The 65 charges against Premium Fire Protection Ltd. and 10 of its employees came after a seven-month investigation by Calgary fire safety codes officers, the city said in a release Monday.

"It's the first time, as far as we're aware, that these types of charges have been laid in the province of Alberta for the operation of a company in this manner," city prosecutor Paul Frank said during a media briefing Monday.

Several large retail stores that hired the company to install safety systems were handed 15 fines under the provincial act.

The companies that were fined are not being named, but Frank said they are large grocery chains, pharmacies and restaurants.

More charges could be laid

The investigation is still continuing and more charges could be laid. The charges are all first-time offences, the city said.

Companies and individuals can be fined up to $100,000 for a first offence — and/or six months in jail — and up to $500,000 for subsequent offences. The amounts are set by a provincial court judge.

"We've never had an investigation this lengthy or involving this many charges before," said Deputy Chief Ken Uzeloc, who added that the violations could pose a serious risk to building occupants and responding firefighters. 

"Although the city's preferred approach to safety code compliance is education, the seriousness of these violations and the fact that Premium Fire Protection Ltd. operates in Calgary, other areas of Alberta and other provinces, led the City of Calgary Fire Department to lay charges in these cases."

Business owners can call 311 to book an appointment with a Calgary fire safety codes officer who can come for a site visit and give guidance ensuring they are in compliance with the fire code.

Premium Fire Protection had not been on the fire department's radar until a witness came forward to report the issue, said fire safety codes officer Frank Schroder.

He added businesses that hire fire protection companies should ask for documents to prove that whoever is doing the work is accredited.

"If you do not attain the certification or the necessary qualifications, you shouldn't be working on any systems."

Premium Fire Protection's website says it has offices across the Prairies. Uzeloc said Calgary's fire marshal has been in touch with authorities in other jurisdictions.

No one from the company immediately responded when asked for comment.

With files from the Canadian Press

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