Riverside County Fire Department cautions business owners to be mindful of phony fire inspectors who have targeted businesses within the county. According to Riverside County Fire Marshall James Frater, his office is aware of about five instances of this occurring.

During these challenging economic times, predators posing as “fire inspectors” take advantage and prey upon unsuspecting business owners. Fire departments in California are indicating an increase of both individuals and fire protection companies posing in “official-looking” clothing and performing questionable “inspections” in local businesses.

These individuals will typically enter businesses suggesting they represent the fire department and request to look at or inspect their fire protection systems. Once granted access by the business owner and the “inspection” is completed, the owner is left with an invoice to pay for their “inspection.”

“I’m not aware of any incidents in Idyllwild,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz.

Frater encourages business people to ask for credentials, especially badges, when someone enters and asks to inspect.

Uniformed Riverside County Fire Department personnel inspect businessess. Proprietors and other key employees should refrain from permitting anyone to inspect fire sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, kitchenhood fire extinguishing systems, fire alarm systems or any other fire protection devices unless contractual agreements are in place and specific services or inspections have been requested by the business.

The county strongly urges business owners to consider the following prior to securing fire protection system services:

• Is the technician clearly identifiable; including a business card? Refrain from allowing anyone to enter the business or grant access to the fire protection system if unsure.

• Request to view the company’s current business license permit, a contractor’s C-16 (fire sprinkler/fixed protection systems) or C-10 (fire alarms) license. Also check the validity of their license by logging on to http://cslb.ca.gov.

• Never pay for services in cash. Make sure to obtain an estimate for any required services. Keep copies of all invoices and pay documents.

• Insist on keeping all replaced or changed parts and a signed invoice.

If in doubt, a business has the right to refuse service in order to verify the legitimacy of the “inspection services.” Idyllwild businesses should call Idyllwild Fire Station at 951-659-2153, Reitz said.

If needed, call the Riverside County Fire Department Fire Protection Planning for assistance to verify legitimacy and qualifications of a fire inspector who comes to a business. Formore information, or to report a possible phony inspector, call 951-955-4777.