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Fire Lanes: Frequently Asked Questions and Regulations

Q. What are fire lanes?

A.

Considered a major component of the fire protection system of a building, a fire lane is a designated lane in the parking lot that allows unobstructed access to fire apparatus, fire trucks, and other firefighting or emergency equipment at all times so that their operations are not hampered in the event of a fire or a medical emergency. Parking and unnecessarily blocking a designated fire lane is prohibited. Fire Lanes can be within any public right-of-way or easement or private property. Fire lanes should also be wide enough to accommodate occupants egressing from a burning building. Most jurisdictions recommend fire lanes to be a minimum of 20 feet wide.

Q. What are the hazards of parking in a fire lane?

A.

It can’t be predicted when a fire will break out. Illegally parking in fire lanes impacts firefighters’ ability to do their job. Parking of non-emergency vehicles in fire lanes is prohibited at all times because the lane gets blocked for fire crews who would need immediate and continuous access to these spots during a fire outbreak. Taking advantage of empty parking space in fire lanes even for a few minutes may lead to delay in help and even become a matter of life and death for fire victims.

Q. Are fire zones and fire lanes the same?

A.

"Fire lanes" are designated passageways or access roads that allow fire apparatus, emergency vehicles, and personnel to pass for emergency response.

"Fire zones" are designated areas at entrances, exits, loading doors, or other accessways to premises, and FDC (Fire Department Connections) which shall not be blocked at any time to provide immediate and continuous access to buildings by fire apparatus, emergency vehicles, and fire personnel. 

Some states like New Jersey have standards for marking both, fire lanes and fire zones, with clear signage.

Q. Which states have separate laws for fire lane signs?

A.

Most states follow International Fire Code for fire lane signage, but some have separate requirements too. Like California Vehicle Code, CVC 22500.1 clearly states that the “FIRE LANE” sign in California shall be posted immediately adjacent to, and visible from, the designated fire lane with letters not less than one inch in height. No person is allowed to stop, park, or leave the vehicle in these designated fire lanes.

States like Colorado, Delaware, Georgio, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin also have their codes for fire lane signage.

Q. Who should be contacted if the Fire Lane is blocked?

A.

If the fire lane is found blocked by a vehicle or if someone parks illegally in the fire lane, contact the local law enforcement or tell the management of the business/parking lot/private property. If the fire lane outside of a store is found occupied by a non-emergency vehicle, the owner or occupant of the building should be the one to handle the matter. However, it can be reported to the police or fire department too.

Some states have a helpline number to report such violations. For example, in Texas, you can report illegal parking violations in fire lanes to Emergency Prevention number at (512) 974-0153 option 3. A fire inspector will be sent to investigate the matter. For fire lanes, within the community, the issue should be reported to HOA, who in most cases, reserves the right to issue a fine or get the parked vehicle towed.

Q. Are there any fire lane signage laws?

A.

Fire Lane Sign laws differ between jurisdictions. Here are some important requirements that most states have adopted.

Fire lane signs shall be -

  • Reflective in nature
  • At least 12” in width and 18” in height
  • White with red lettering
  • Have text “No Parking – Fire Lane” with 3” lettering
  • Installed at least 50 feet apart and posted on or immediately next to the curb or side of the road
  • Mounted at a height so that top of the sign is 4 to 6 feet above the ground
  • Installed so they face the traffic
  • When posts are required for signs, they shall be at least 2-inch galvanized steel or 4” x 4” pressure treated wood

Q. Can one idle or stop in a fire lane?

A.

No. Idling or stopping in the fire lane is also illegal just as parking a vehicle is. If the lane is designated as a “fire lane” with a sign or other marking, and someone is just sitting in the car with the engine on, he or she can get ticketed. Even if it is for a minute, the fire lane should not be occupied by random vehicles whatsoever the reason may be.

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