Ruinous Wildfires in Calif. Cause Colossal Increase in False Fire Alarms

Smoke from the Camp Fire is inundating Sacramento, setting off an unprecedented number of false alarm calls and straining resources.

SACRAMENTO — Choking, smothering smoke wafting into California’s state capitol from the Camp Fire is causing a huge increase in the number of false fire alarms triggered by the smoke.

As a result, firefighters are responding to an unprecedented number of false alarm calls, which are putting a strain on the system, according to local television station CBS13. The thick ambient smoke in the atmosphere is seeping into homes and buildings, triggering fire alarms.

Sacramento Fire Battalion Chief Rusty Van Vuren told CBS13 that smoke detectors detect particulate or ionized particles in the air, setting off alarms.

On Nov. 13 fire crews responded to the downtown Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on a fire alarm call only to find out it was caused by outdoor smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County building up inside the church.

They were also dispatched twice to the police department property storage facility when smoke inside the warehouse grew so thick it set off the detector, according to CBS13.

“They were doing exactly what they were designed and meant to do, unfortunately with this kind of drift ambient smoke going throughout the whole valley, it’s putting us to work for a lot of extra false alarms,” Van Vuren said.

Dispatchers send at least nine firefighters on a commercial fire alarm. Once crews arrive it takes time to determine there is no emergency. Van Vuren said it becomes a laborious process as crews have to check room by room, floor by floor.

The false alarms are creating more work for the fire department that is already thin on staffing because so many personnel have been sent north to help Butte County. CBS13 checked with Metro Fire as well. They said they had four internal alarm calls the day before the Camp Fire broke out but had 14 alarm calls Nov. 13.

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