On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cape May County.
Brody, Ashbey and Skillman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Skillman, J.A.D.
[231 NJSuper Page 548] The issue presented by this appeal is whether subsection F-408.11 of the 1984 BOCA National Fire Prevention Code (Fire Prevention Code), adopted by the Department of Community
Affairs (Department) by administrative regulation, N.J.A.C. 5:18-3.1(a), requires portable fire extinguishers to be placed in motel and hotel rooms which contain cooking facilities. We conclude that the Code does not impose this requirement.
Plaintiff Anthony Venuti owns and operates a motel in Wildwood Crest known as the Carousel Motel, which is a three story building with 48 "rooming units" and 16 "efficiency units" containing kitchen facilities. Plaintiff was cited by the fire subcode official of defendant Wildwood Crest Borough for numerous Fire Prevention Code violations, including the absence of portable fire extinguishers in his efficiency units.
Plaintiff appealed to defendant Cape May County Construction Board of Appeals (Board) from the fire subcode official's decision that he was required by subsection F-408.11 to have fire extinguishers in each efficiency unit.*fn1 The Board affirmed the fire subcode official's decision by a three to one vote.
Plaintiff filed an action in the Law Division challenging the Board's decision.*fn2 The trial court issued a letter opinion affirming the Board's decision, which was memorialized by a final judgment entered on November 4, 1987. Plaintiff appealed and we granted the Department's motion to intervene.
On November 12, 1983, the Legislature enacted the Uniform Fire Safety Act, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-192 et seq. One of the purposes of this legislation is to ensure that "[a]ll areas of this State are protected by a uniform, minimum, fire safety code which will protect the lives and property of the State's citizens." N.J.S.A. 52:27D-195a. The Act delegates to the Commissioner of Community Affairs "all the powers necessary or convenient to effectuate the purposes of this act . . .," N.J.S.A.
52:27D-197, including the power to promulgate "regulations to insure the maintenance and operation of buildings and equipment in such a manner as will provide a reasonable degree of safety from fire and explosion." N.J.S.A. 52:27D-198a. The Act directs that the regulations "shall include a uniform fire safety code primarily based on the standards established by [uniform national fire codes]." Ibid.
Pursuant to this legislative mandate, the Department promulgated the Uniform Fire Code, N.J.A.C. 5:18-1.1 et seq. N.J.A.C. 5:18-1.3 provides that the Uniform Fire Code is designed "for the safeguarding to a reasonable degree of life and property from . . . conditions hazardous to life or property in the use or occupancy of buildings or premises." N.J.A.C. 5:18-1.3(1)(a). Subchapter 3 of the Code, entitled "Fire Prevention Code," adopts by reference, with slight modifications, the 1984 version of the Basic/National Fire Prevention Code prepared by the Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA).*fn3 N.J.A.C. 5:18-3.1(a).
Subsection F-408.11 of the Fire Prevention Code, which the trial court found to require portable fire extinguishers in hotel rooms with cooking facilities, is part of section F-408.0. This section is entitled "fire suppression systems for cooking operations." The first subsection of F-408.0 states that "[t]he provisions of this section shall govern the installation, repair, operation and maintenance of fire suppression systems for range hoods and food preparation centers in all buildings and structures." § F-408.1. The second subsection requires ...