The Fire Department conducts inspections of existing buildings, new construction and facilities and events that must comply with state and local licensing requirements.
The Fire Marshal inspects all existing commercial, retail and office establishments—as well as the common areas of apartments and condominiums—once a year for compliance with the Fire Code. The Fire Marshal also regularly inspects day care centers, family day care centers, assisted living facilities, nightclubs, bars and other establishments.
If your business or establishment is a new occupant of an existing building, you must register with the Fire Marshal's Office by calling 410-887-4880 to ensure a place in the annual inspection rotation.
Business owners and other private parties do not need to reschedule inspections year after year; a business or establishment becomes part of the Fire Marshal regular inspection schedule after it has been inspected once.
For new structures, except one- and two-family dwellings, compliance with the Fire Code is required before issuance of a use and occupancy permit. The inspections for new structures are scheduled automatically as part of the County's permit process.
Single-Family and Townhomes
The Fire Code does not require the routine inspection of privately-owned single-family residences, duplexes and townhomes. The code does not grant right of entry by fire marshals into these homes.
Fire prevention, including the installation of smoke alarms—the single most important fire safety step—is the responsibility of the homeowner; the same is true for installation of carbon monoxide alarms. Familiarize yourself with the laws pertaining to smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
The Fire Code requires the inspection of the common areas of rental apartment units and condominiums. It does not grant right of entry by fire marshals into individual units.
Types of Inspections
Regular inspections of all structures (except single-family homes, duplexes and the interior living units of apartments and condominiums) are required by law to uncover potential hazards to life and property. Engine companies typically perform these routine inspections.
Through inspection, the Fire Department identifies many types of potential hazards to life and property. Correcting these hazards protects the lives and well-being of property and business owners, employees, customers and their families.
The Fire Marshal maintains an annual rotation of inspections for existing structures. Call the Fire Marshal's Office at 410-887-4880 if you have questions about your inspection.
Inspection Program Goals
- Compliance with the Baltimore County Fire Prevention Code and the Maryland Fire Prevention Code.
- Public education about fire and life safety.
- Improvement of standards of building maintenance and other conditions that contribute to fires or affect the ability to escape a fire.
- Maintenance of life safety in buildings.
- Maintenance of fire protection equipment.
- Control of special hazards due to processes and storage involving flammable and explosive materials.
- Building a constructive relationship between the Fire Department and the public.
- Familiarizing fire personnel with building conditions so they can fight fires more effectively and safely, and gain knowledge in ways to prevent fires.
The Fire Marshal's Office oversees the fire station inspection program. Each year, fire personnel inspect more than 22,000 properties and establishments.
For new or renovated structures—except one- and two-family dwellings—compliance with the Fire Code is required before issuance of a use and occupancy permit. These inspections are scheduled automatically as part of the permit process.
Find more information about what you need and how to request an inspection.
The Office of the Fire Marshal does not review or issue permits, except for burning permits. The Fire Marshal conducts inspections for commercial permits after issuance and upon request by the applicant.
Bonfires and agricultural burning are illegal in Baltimore County without permits from the Fire Marshal and, in some cases, from local environmental authorities.
Find more information about open burning permits and regulations.
All family home daycare providers must be must be licensed by the Maryland Department of Education's Office of Child Care. This lengthy process requires the potential provider to undergo extensive training, background checks and inspections of their homes. A home fire safety inspection by the Fire Marshal Division is part of this process.
The Fire Marshal performs an initial inspection of the new licensee. Once a license is granted, the provider must be re-inspected for fire safety each year.
Inspections are conducted in accordance with requirements of the Maryland Fire Prevention Code and the Baltimore County Fire Prevention Code which are based on the 2012 edition of the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code 101, Chapter 16.
These laws govern the safety of the child in the home and the provider's ability to get children out of the house in the event of a fire or other emergency.
The following is a general list of fire code requirements for family home day cares:
Bathroom and bedroom doors must open from inside the room. Any inside locks must open without a key.
Closet doors must open from the inside.
Safety caps must be provided in all unused outlets.
Providers must post an emergency escape plan showing two ways out of each room and area used for day care.
Providers must maintain and test sliding doors daily as a required means of egress.
Secondary exits may be key lockable on both sides if a key is readily accessible.
Must provide a minimum of two approved ways out of each area used for day care. The primary exit from each area must be a door (at least 28 inches wide); the second means of escape may be another door or an approved window
All fire protection equipment (extinguishers, sprinklers, smoke detectors) must be tested and maintained. Fire extinguishers may be tested by the provider in accordance with manufacturer's recommendations.
Fireplaces and woodstoves must have a stationary barrier at least 18 inches from hot surfaces.
Flammable liquids and fuel-fired equipment must be stored in appropriate areas.
At least one operable flashlight must be accessible to the provider.
The use of unvented, fuel-fired room heaters (fixed or portable) is prohibited.
The main entrance must have a thumb-turn lock on the inside.
Providers must maintain good housekeeping in all areas.
Paneling or wall coverings must have a flame spread rating.
Smoke alarms are required in all rooms or areas used for sleeping and napping. This is in addition to the detectors required by State law.
No loose steps or other trip hazards at entrance and exits to house are permitted.
Windows must open from the inside without the use of tools and must provide a clear opening of not less than 20 inches clear width and 24 inches clear height and be at least 5.7 square feet in area. This means that if the window is only 20 inches wide, it must be 41.1 inches high to provide 5.7 square feet of area. For windows at grade, five square feet in area is required. The bottom of the window opening cannot exceed 44 inches from the floor.
The Fire Marshal's Office inspects daycare centers each year as part of the Maryland Department of Education's Office of Child Care licensing requirements.
Requirements for daycare occupancies are found in National Fire Protection Association 101, Life Safety Code, 2012 edition. Amendments to the Life Safety Code regarding daycare occupancies are found in the Maryland State Fire Prevention Code and the Baltimore County Fire Prevention Code.
Group homes and assisted living facilities are community-based establishments that serve a variety of special populations, including the elderly, disabled and troubled juveniles.
Facilities Existing Prior To January 1, 2007
Group homes and assisted living facilities in existence before January 1, 2007, and that house five to eight people, must comply with the requirements for one- and two-family dwellings if the owners present information to the Fire Chief or his designee stipulating that residents do not have unique needs that warrant more stringent fire safety standards.
Facilities Established After January 1, 2007
Group homes and assisted living facilities housing more than three people and established after January 1, 2007 must comply with more stringent fire safety standards as outlined in National Fire Protection Association fire and life safety codes.
Nursing homes are regulated and inspected by the Maryland State Fire Marshal.
Fire prevention involves making sure that places where large numbers of people assemble do not exceed their occupancy load. The Fire Marshal's Office determines occupancy capacities and issues an official certificate specifying this capacity.
Find more information about occupancy regulations.
State law (Maryland Public Safety Article, Title 10, 10-103 and 104) requires a permit for the discharge of aerial fireworks. To obtain a permit for a public display, you must apply to the Maryland Fire Marshal at least 10 days prior to the display date. The use of backyard fireworks is prohibited in Maryland. Some ground-based sparkling devices are allowed.
Once the Maryland Fire Marshal issues a permit, the Baltimore County Fire Marshal's Office inspects the display site for compliance with state and local fire codes. Call the local Fire Marshal at 410-887-4880 to schedule an inspector to meet a representative at the site.
On the date of the display, the local Fire Marshal will inspect to ensure that:
- The shooter is certified by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.
- The site approved at the time of application is the site that actually will be used.
- The site, shooter and procedures all comply with National Fire Protection Association standards.
- Weather conditions are appropriate for fireworks discharge.
Many ground-based and hand-held sparklers are legal in certain Maryland counties, including Baltimore County. Our fact sheet on fireworks provides details on the laws regulating these devices.
Schedules of Fireworks Displays
As part of the license application for beverage sales with the Board of License Commissioners for Baltimore County, the Fire Marshal's Office receives a copy of the notice of application. A fire inspector will visit your establishment to determine if a fire safety inspection is needed.
Inspections are conducted in accordance with the requirements found in the National Fire Protection Association 101, Life Safety Code, 2006 edition.
Assembly occupancies (those used for the gathering of 50 or more persons for entertainment, eating, drinking or similar activity) must post the occupant load in a conspicuous location near the main exit of the room or space being used.
The certificate for posting occupant load is issued by the Fire Marshal. If your assembly occupancy does not have a capacity certificate, personnel from the Fire Marshal's Office may need to determine your maximum permitted occupant capacity.
Fire codes require Crowd Manager training for establishments used for gatherings of 50 or more people.