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O.C. Fire warns of unauthorized inspections

August 19, 2010 12:12:18 AM PDT
As the owner of a printing business in Laguna Niguel, David Ohrn knows the Orange County Fire Authority does routine inspections, so when two men in uniforms came by to look at the fire extinguishers, his workers didn't think twice."My employee thought they were with the fire department making a routine fire inspection," Ohrn said.

But shortly after, Ohrn received a bill for $60. He then noticed they switched out his fire extinguishers with others.

"My fire extinguisher was basically brand new," Ohrn said. "The ones that they left are really old."

The OCFA has received several complaints from small businesses in cities across the county.

"We don't contract out with anybody to do our inspections," said Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion of the OCFA. "We do our inspections on our own, so it will be an Orange County Fire Authority employee."

Lately, officials said certain companies appear to be targeted where there are workers whose first language is not English.

"They're having the employees that don't speak English sign a piece of paper, then a few days later they come back with an invoice charging them for that inspection," Concepcion said.

A company named Fire Protection Systems Inspection or Orco Fire Protection allegedly got a Korean worker at one Orange County business to sign what looked like an inspection sheet. Two weeks later, a bill for more than $300 arrived.

Officials are informing businesses that the OCFA does not do repairs for businesses, but must conduct inspections every one to three years.

Authorities warn businesses to be cautious. The OCFA performs inspections for free and drive a county car.

"You can tell very easily that we have a unique Orange County Fire Authority patch on our shoulder and they'll have a badge," Concepcion said. "Ask for identification."


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