CHAPTER 5

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 66, TITLE 16 OF THE DELAWARE CODE ENTITLED "STATE FIRE MARSHAL" BY CREATING A STATE FIRE PREVENTION COMMISSION AND APPROPRIATING MONEY THEREFOR.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Chapter 66, Title 16, Delaware Code, is hereby amended by repealing sections 6601, 6602, 6603, 6604, 6605, 6606 and 6607 and substituting therefor the following sections:

§ 6601. State Fire Prevention Commission; appointment; qualifications; members to serve without compensation

(a) There is hereby created a State Fire Prevention Commission, which shall consist of six persons, qualified by experience and training to deal with the matters which are the responsibilities of the Commission, appointed by the Governor. The term of office of the members first taking office shall expire, as designated by the Governor at the time of appointment, one at the end of one year, one at the end of two years, one at the end of three years, one at the end of four years, one at the end of five years and one at the end of six years. Each succeeding term shall be for six years. Any member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the term for which his predecessor was appointed, shall be appointed for the remainder of such term. Of the members of said Commission there shall at all times be three members, one from each County, who shall be members of paid or volunteer fire companies. The remaining three members of the Commission shall be representatives of industry from New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.

(b) The members of the State Fire Prevention Commission shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

§ 6602. Organization and meetings

(a) The State Fire Prevention Commission shall select a Chairman and Vice-Chairman from among its members and shall

hold regular meetings at least once a month and special meetings when called by its Chairman.

(b) No business shall be transacted by the State Fire Prevention Commission in the absence of a quorum which shall be three members, one of whom must be the Chairman or Vice-Chairman.

§ 6603. Promulgation of regulations

The State Fire Prevention Commission shall have the power to promulgate, amend and repeal regulations for the safeguarding of life and property from the hazards of fire and explosion. Such regulations, amendments, or repealers shall be in accordance with standard safe practice as embodied in widely recognized standards of good practice for fire prevention and fire protection and shall have the force and effect of law in the several counties, cities and political subdivisions of the State. Such regulations and amendments shall not apply to existing installations, plants, or equipment unless the State Fire Prevention Commission has duly found that the continuation thereof constitutes a hazard so inimitable to the public welfare and safety as to require correction; nor shall such regulations and amendments limit or prohibit the shipment, transportation, handling, or storage incident to transportation of any explosive, combustible or other dangerous article, in solid, liquid, or gas form, by rail, water, or highway, when such articles are in conformity with regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In their interpretation and application the regulations promulgated under this chapter shall be held to be the minimum requirements for the safeguarding of life and property from the hazards of fire and explosion. Whenever the provisions of any other statute or local regulation are more stringent or impose higher standards than are required by any regulations promulgated under this chapter, the provisions of such statute or local regulation shall govern, provided they are not inconsistent with the State Code and are not contrary to recognized standards and good engineering practices.

§ 6604. Public hearing and notices

Prior to the promulgation, amendment, or repeal of any regulation, the State Fire Prevention Commission shall hold at least one public hearing on each regulation, amendment, or repealer to be separately submitted, notice of which hearing shall be published 15 days before the date of the hearing in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation throughout the State. A copy of such notice shall be sent at the same time to every person, firm, or corporation who shall have registered with the State Fire Prevention Commission a request to be so notified. The notice shall contain the time, and place of hearing, subjects to be discussed, and shall specify the place and times at which the proposed regulation, amendment, or repealer may be examined.

§ 6605. Commission's powers in conduct of public hearing

For the purpose of any public hearing under this chapter, the State Fire Prevention Commission shall have the power to summon witnesses and administer oaths for the purpose of giving of testimony.

§ 6606. State Fire Marshal; appointment; term; salary

(c) The Office of State Fire Marshal is hereby established. The State Fire Prevention Commission shall appoint a person qualified by his previous training and experience in endeavors similar to those herein prescribed, as State Fire Marshal. The State Fire Marshal shall be a citizen of this State and a resident for at least five years prior to his appointment. He shall hold his office for a term of 4 years. He shall receive an annual salary of $6,000. He shall devote his whole time to the duties of his office. Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of State Fire Marshal for any reason other than the expiration of a term, the vacancy shall be filled by the State Fire Prevention Commission for the balance of the unexpired term. The office of the State Fire Marshal shall be located at the State Capitol in quarters provided by the State.

() The State Fire Marshal may appoint, with the approval of the State Fire Prevention Commission a Deputy or Deputies Fire Marshal and administer the usual oath required. The salary or salaries shall be set by the State Fire Prevention Commission from available funds appropriated. The Deputy or Deputies State Fire Marshal shall be a resident of this State but not of the same County as that resided in by the State Fire Marshal.

In case of the absence of the State Fire Marshal, or his inability from any cause to discharge the duties of his office, such duties shall devolve upon the Deputy State Fire Marshal.

(c) The Fire Marshal of any political subdivision of this State, having such an office duly created by ordinance or resolution before January 1, 1959, shall serve as an Assistant State Fire Marshal. Within the limits of the said political subdivision, he shall have exclusive jurisdiction exercising the duties and powers of the State Fire Marshal but he shall serve without compensation.

(d) The State Fire Marshal shall employ or acquire such office and clerical employees, equipment, furniture, supplies and paraphernalia as may be necessary for the orderly administration of his office.

(e) The State Fire Marshal, his Deputy or Deputies, and other members of his office, in addition to their salaries, shall be reimbursed for their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.

§ 6607. State Fire Marshal; duties and powers

(a) The State Fire Marshal shall enforce all laws and ordinances of the State and the several counties, cities, and political subdivisions thereof having to do with:

(1) Prevention of fires;

(2) The storage, sale, and use of any explosive, combustible, or other dangerous article, in solid, liquid, or gas form;

(3) The installation and maintenance of equipment of all sorts intended for fire control, detection, and extinguishment;

(4) The means and adequacy of exit, in case of fire, from buildings and all other places in which numbers of persons work, live or congregate from time to time for any purpose, except buildings used wholly as dwelling houses containing no more than two families;

(5) The suppression of arson.

(b) The State Fire Marshal shall assist any chief of any recognized fire company upon request of such chief.

(c) The State Fire Marshal shall enforce the regulations promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission as authorized by section 6603 of this chapter.

(d) The State Fire Marshal shall require the administrative heads of public and private schools and educational institutions to have at least one fire drill each month when said schools are in session, and to keep all doors and exits unlocked during school hours.

(e) The State Fire Marshal shall inspect all State and County owned institutions, all schools, theatres, churches and other places of public assembly as to fire exits and reasonable safety standards and report his findings and recommendations to the proper administrative heads.

(f) The State Fire Marshal may at any time investigate as to the origin or circumstances of any fire or explosion occurring in the State, and may at all reasonable hours enter any building or premises within his jurisdiction for the purpose of making an inspection or investigation, which, under the provisions of this chapter, he may deem necessary to be made.

(g) The State Fire Marshal shall have the authority to issue subpoenas in the enforcement of this chapter.

§ 6608. Appeals to the State Fire Prevention Commission; procedure

(a) Appeals to the State Fire Prevention Commission may be taken by any person aggrieved by an order or decision of the State Fire Marshal based upon or made in the course of the administration or enforcement of the provisions of this chapter. Appeals to the State Fire Prevention Commission may be taken by any officer, department, board or bureau of the State and the several counties, cities, and political subdivisions thereof affected by an order or decision of the State Fire Marshal in the course of the administration or enforcement of the provisions of this chapter.

(b) The time within which such appeal must be made, and the effect, form, or other procedure relating thereto, shall be as specified in regulations promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission following notice and public hearings as provided in sections 6604 and 6605 of this chapter.

§ 6609. Powers of State Fire Prevention Commission upon appeals

Upon appeals the State Fire Prevention Commission shall have the following powers:

(a) To hear and decide appeals where it is alleged by the appellant that there is error in any order, requirement, decision or refusal made by the State Fire Marshal based on or made in the enforcement of the provisions of this chapter.

(b) To hear and decide, in accordance with the provisions of any duly adopted regulation, requests for special exceptions or for interpretation of regulations or for decisions upon other special questions upon which the Commission is required by any regulation to pass.

(c) To authorize a variance from particular provisions of the regulations duly promulgated under section 6603 hereof where strict -compliance with such provisions would entail practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships, provided such relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public safety and without substantially impairing the intent and purpose of the regulations promulgated under section 6603 hereof.

() All decisions, authorizations, or interpretations made by the State Fire Prevention Commission hereunder shall be written and signed by the Chairman or Vice-Chairman and filed in the office of the State Fire Marshal within 20 days following the appeal.

§ 6610. Court review of decision of State Fire Prevention Commission; procedure

(a) Any person jointly or severally aggrieved by any decision of the State Fire Prevention Commission made in the exercise of its appellate function under section 6609 hereof, or any officer, department, board or bureau of the State and the several counties, cities, and political subdivisions thereof may present to the Superior Court of the County in which the property in question, or the party aggrieved, or either, shall be located or of which such party shall be a resident, a duly verified petition setting forth that such decision is illegal in whole or in part, specifying the grounds of the illegality. The petition shall be presented to the Court within 30 days after the filing of the decision in the office of the State Fire Marshal.

(b) Upon the presentation of the petition, the Court may allow a writ of certiorari, directed to the State Fire Prevention Commission, to review the decision of the State Fire Prevention Commission, and shall prescribe therein the time within which a return thereto must be made and served upon the petitioner's attorney, which shall not be less than 10 days and may be extended by the Court.

(c) The allowance of the writ shall not stay proceedings upon the decision appealed from, but the Court may, on application, on notice to the Commission and on due cause shown, grant a restraining order.

(d) The State Fire Prevention Commission shall not be required to return the original papers acted upon by it, but it shall be sufficient to return certified or sworn copies thereof, or of such portions thereof as may be called for by the writ. The return shall concisely set forth such other facts as may be pertinent and material to show the grounds of the decision appealed from and shall be verified.

(e) If, upon the hearing, it shall appear to the Court that testimony is necessary for the proper disposition of the matter, it may take evidence, or appoint a referee to take such evidence as it may direct and report the same to the Court with his findings of fact and conclusions of law, which shall constitute a part of the proceedings upon which the determination of the Court shall be made.

(f) The Court may reverse or affirm, wholly or partly, or may modify the decision brought up for review.

(g) Costs shall not be allowed against the Commission unless it shall appear to the Court that it acted with gross negligence

or in bad faith or with malice in making the decision appealed from.

§ 6611. Maintenance of fire hazard, violations of regulations, or chapter; enforcement; remedies and penalties

(a) No person shall erect, construct, reconstruct, alter, maintain or use any building, structure or equipment or use any land in such a way to endanger life or property from the hazards of fire or explosion, or in violation of any regulation, or any provision of, or any change thereof, promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission under the authority of this chapter.

(b) Whoever knowingly violates such regulations, provisions or change, or any provision of this chapter, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than 10 days or both.

(c) Each and every day during which such illegal erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, maintenance, or use continues after knowledge or official notice that same is illegal shall be deemed a separate offense.

(d) In case any building, structure or equipment is or is proposed to be erected, constructed, reconstructed, altered, maintained or used, or any land is or is proposed to be used in such a way to endanger life or property from the hazards of fire or explosion or in violation of this chapter or of any regulation or provision of any "regulation, or change thereof promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission under the authority granted by this chapter, the State Fire Prevention Commission, the State Fire Marshal, or the Attorney General may, in addition to other remedies provided by law, institute injunction, mandamus, abatement or any other appropriate action or actions, proceeding or proceedings to prevent, enjoin, abate, or remove such unlawful erection, construction, reconstruction, alteration, maintenance or use.

§ 6612. Annual report; financial statement, budget

(a) The State Fire Prevention Commission shall annually, on or before the thirtieth day of September, transmit to the Governor a full report of its proceedings under this chapter and such statistics as it may wish to include therein; it shall also recommend any amendments to the law which in its judgment shall be desirable.

(b) Along with the annual report, the State Fire Prevention Commission shall transmit a financial statement showing all expenditures and income of the State Fire Prevention Commission covering the preceding twelve months, starting July 1 and ending June 30.

(c) In the even numbered years the State Fire Prevention Commission shall submit to the Budget Commission a budget showing proposed expenditures for the biennium beginning July 1 next succeeding.

Section 2. The funds remaining from the appropriation to the State Fire Marshal under Chapter 322, Volume 50, Laws of Delaware, shall be transferred to the State Fire Prevention Commission for the purpose of carrying out this act.

Section 3. Any and all funds appropriated in the name of the State Fire Marshal in the General Appropriation Bill approved by the 120th General Assembly shall be transferred to the State Fire Prevention Commission for the purpose of carrying out this act.

Section 4. All acts or parts of acts inconsistent with any of the provisions of this act are hereby repealed to the extent of any such inconsistency.

Section 5. This Act shall take effect upon July 1, 1959.

Approved March 23, 1959.