Fire Extinguisher Scam (United States)...

Russ Porteous
CEO, Firewize
01 Aug, 2018

Here's an interesting article from Janelle Walker a staff writer for the Suburban Chicago News regarding sham fire extinguisher inspections. While this article is sourced from the United States, it has some relevance to the regular (6-monthly) inspection and testing of portable fire extinguishers in Australia...

While I've never heard of this kind of activity locally, It is common to find unscrupulous fire extinguisher service providers providing a limited rag and tag only service...

Selecting a quality service provider is more than just selecting the lowest price, it's about maintaining the fire equipment in a state that is fit for purpose and readiness. This means actually removing the fire extinguisher from its hook, conducting a thorough check in accordance with the standards and industry best practice.

SOUTH ELGIN, USA - Area businesses have reported that a man claiming to be from an area fire suppression businesses has been conducting sham fire extinguisher inspections, then demanding payment for the services.

However, officials said, the man is not a representative of the company and is not licensed in Illinois to service fire extinguishers.

It is believed that the man is taking inspection tags off fire extinguishers at malls or other businesses, then placing those tags on the fire extinguisher he claims to have inspected, said Chief Joe Cluchey of the South Elgin & Countryside Fire Protection District.

The Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce has issued an alert to area businesses regarding the scam.

"An individual identifying himself as a Mike Stevens is performing fraudulent extinguisher inspections in the Chicagoland area," said the chamber alert.

The man attempted the scam on Tuesday morning, the chamber alert said. When the customer asked who he worked for, he said Fox Valley Fire and Safety. However, the tag on the fire extinguisher said SimplexGrinnel â?? another area fire protection consultant.

"The Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District has called the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and they have advised us that there is no Mike Stevens registered/licensed in the state," the chamber alert states.

South Elgin's fire protection district heard about the scam through the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills district, Cluchey said. South Elgin Assistant Chief Bill Sohn is a state fire marshal, Cluchey said.

In addition to the monetary losses from the scam, Cluchey said, there is a physical danger if businesses believe their fire extinguishers have been recently inspected and have not.

The chemicals and powder in fire extinguishers do get old, Cluchey said. The powder can cake up at the bottom of the canister, making it less effective at stopping fires.

"Depending on the seal and the age, it can lose pressure," Cluchey said.

"If (the tag) says it is OK, and it is not OK, and you need an extinguisher, there is the hazard," Cluchey said.

The tags also often indicate what kind of fire extinguisher it is, Cluchey said. "There are specific tags for specific types of uses."

South Elgin, and most area municipalities, require businesses to have fire extinguishers, and to have those inspected annually, Cluchey said.

Area businesses owners who believe they have been scammed â?? or if the man shows up at their offices â?? should call local authorities, Cluchey said.[fn][/fn]

More about Fire Extinguisher inspection and maintenance
Portable fire extinguishers are maintained in accordance with Australian Standard AS1851 and local authority guidelines. Contact Firewize for more information about portable fire extinguisher maintenance.