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Tuolumne County Short Term Rental Fire & Life Safety Inspections – Airbnb / VRBO

So as of January 19, 2024 you will need to get your STR – Short Term rental – airbnb – VRBO – Vacation Rental by owner property inspected by the Tuolumne County Fire Department-Prevention for all unincorporated areas of Tuolumne county or you will need to cease all rental operations. So get on the schedule ASAP or you will have to stop renting. That means basically everyone except Sonora. Sonora has it’s own process. We are in Twain Harte. Ordinance Code Chapter 8.70 This is for rentals that are renting for 30 day terms or less for each guest. This can include bedroom rentals, tents in your backyard, glamping, even renting out your couch for less then 30 days.

Here’s what you will need to get completed to be compliant.

You will need a letter posted ideally on the wall near the front door of a point of contact / authorized agent for your rental with the following info… This could be your rental manager or if you rent your space without a property manager; yourself or your attorney. Include your name, cell phone and email. Here’s an example of who qualifies:

“Local contact person” means an individual who is personally available by telephone on a twenty-four (24)-hour basis and who maintains the ability to be onsite within sixty (60) minutes and who has access and authority to assume management of the unit. An agent or professional property management company that meets the availability requirements can serve as the local contact person.

In addition to that letter you need local emergency contacts like Fire, Police, Ambulance; for example 911. I would include the local number as well in case 911 is down. You can usually get connected faster by calling a local number in an emergency; as 911 calls can go to highway patrol first sometimes before your local agency.

You will need an evacuation plan diagram on how to get out of your residence (floor plan diagram showing how to get out of house along with out of neighborhood) and where the fire extinguishers are (technically you don’t need to include where fire extinguishers are, but it may be nice to include)and also how to get from your residence to the closest highway. highway 108 in our case. You also need to include your TOT – Transient Occupancy Tax number permit number on the evac plan sheet with operator name, business name, when your certificate was issued and write that you have fulfilled the requirements of Uniform Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance 3.32.060.

Your residence needs address marker requirements. The code says four inch numbers in height and 1/2 inch wide. You need at least one on your house. If the fire department can’t see the number when they drive by include an additional number on a sign near the top of your property line / driveway or post it on a tree. From the code:

Visible address. Each short-term rental shall have an address identification. The address identification shall be legible and placed in a position that is visible from the street or road fronting the property. Whenever the address on the short-term rental unit will not be clearly visible from the street or access road fronting the property, the address shall also be placed at the public street or access road in a manner which is clearly visible from both directions of travel on the frontage road or street. Address identification characters shall contrast with their background and conform to the minimum size requirements of the Tuolumne County Ordinance Code Section 15.20.040. A short-term rental in a condominium building that does not have an individual address may utilize the condominium building address and
need not comply with these requirements. Tuolumne County Ordinance Code 12.12.080

You can get address markers from the Tuolumne County sheriffs office at the Junction shopping center in Sonora, CA.

Does a loft need a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher? Yes all of them. (if used as an assembly or for sleeping purposes) Use a combo smoke / CO detector. ( cheapest, but you can ALSO use A single smoke detector and a CO2 detector as well) (if using gas appliances within the home then a CO2 is a must). Especially if it has a water heater. ( That’s IF IT IS A GAS POWERED HEATER… or any gas powered appliance used “inside” the home ONLY THEN WILL A CO2 BE REQUIRED…….IF WATER HEATER IS OUTSIDE THEN NO YOU DON’T NEED ONE AS IT IS OUTSIDE.)

Each bedroom needs a combination carbon monoxide / smoke detector that lasts 10 years and doesn’t have a user replaceable battery. Also note the install date on sharpie on the unit. If you use a combo unit, you do not have to put a carbon monoxide detector on the outside of each bedroom door. Then each floor would need a combo unit as well. Mount them ideally on the ceiling or within 6 inches on the ceiling on a side wall. (corners or pitched roofs will be measured from highest peak of ceiling) See diagram and clarification) This is out of NFPA

-When mounting smoke alarm on the ceiling, locate it a minimum of 4” (10cm) from a side wall or corner
-When mounting smoke alarm on a wall, if local codes allow, use an inside wall with the top edge of the smoke alarm a minimum of 4” (10cm) an a maximum of 12” (30.5cm) below the ceiling/wall intersections.

Where to mount a smoke detector / smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector
Where to mount a smoke detector / smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector

Each floor needs a fire extinguisher. It must be mounted on the wall form 3 – 5 feet in height. If your worried about kids getting into it you could put it in a special labeled lock-box; like the ones you see at schools that says break glass to access. That includes the attic.

(if used as sleeping quarters). The basement is exempt (if used as sleeping quarters it is not).

Fire extinguishers: one 5-pound type 2-A:10-B:C must be installed at a readily available location near the kitchen. If more than one level, an extinguisher must be mounted within each level and inspected annually by a certified professional. (you can also purchase your own, but will need to save receipt for inspector to see).

My journey to buy one: So I went to Loses in Sonora, CA to buy a fire extinguisher. I looked all over the box to see if it was the proper fire extinguisher. No where could I see it was a 5 pound model. spent 20 minutes trying to figure it out. Apparently if it says this type 2-A:10-B:C it’s a 5 pound model. Hopefully I just saves ya a couple minutes.

The ones Lowes had are the First Alert Home2Pro S23-177963-179289. And for all you amazon shoppers here a link for that https://amzn.to/49oW3vR

And the fire extinguisher mount / holder is the First Alert Bracket5 at Lowes. amazon link – https://amzn.to/492eiaB

The smoke alarm at Lowes is this one:
First Alert SMCO210, 10-Year Sealed Battery Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Slim Profile Design – Amazon link – https://amzn.to/3Stty9E – c16-160159-000 or 1046796. They were on closeout for $40 bucks each at Lowes Hardware store. Next model up is talking and WIFI ability.

Here’s a contact to get our fire extinguishers serviced:

Cisco Fire Sprinklers, Inc.
223 Baker St
Copperopolis, CA 95228
(209) 785-2643
Contact is Mike for our area:
(209) 753-8454

Fire Extinguishers will need to be refilled & certified yearly and the fire inspections happen every 2 years. We had ours today 02/07/2024 and passed. 🙂

Outdoor fire clearance requirements. Most of us have already been inspected this last year and should have a fire clearance letter already. All residential units are required to be inspected. That one is similar to the one that’s done for short term rental units. Defensible space shall meet all requirements of California Public Resource Code 4291 and Tuolumne County’s Hazardous Vegetation Ordinance 8.14, which can be found online at www.readyforwildfire.org and https://bit.ly/42hR7GJ




Inspections are done every 2 years; so if you were inspected today January 30, 2024, your next inspection should be done by January 30, 2026. So put it on your schedule to get done early.

Misc. Questions:
Is my STR / Short term rental single family residence exempt under 8.70.030 . Any vacation rental / short term rental (less then 30 day rental terms) type residence needs the inspection.

Do unfinished basements need carbon monoxide or smoke alarms or fire extinguishers? Nope; as long as no one sleeps in that area. Even if there is a forced air furnace they are not needed. But if you have a bathroom / shower in your basement or sleeping unit you will need a combination smoke alarm carbon monoxide alarm.

Install locations for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
Install locations for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
Install locations for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
Install locations for smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.

Sonya with the Tuolumne County Fire Department-Prevention Division is doing the inspections at this time. You can schedule an appointment with her. Get in early as she is expected to get booked up fast with potentially over a 1,000 short term rentals. Tuolumne County Fire staff urge all short-term rental owners — once they receive their TOT returns — or if already registered with the Tuolumne County Tax collectors office and have a Certificate # they can call now — to contact the county fire department’s Fire Prevention Division at (209) 533-5502 or fireprevention@co.tuolumne.ca.us to schedule their fire and life safety inspections.

These are accurate to the best of my knowledge. Check the code. Set up a fire inspection and the agent can verify everything you need, so your not spending money unnecessarily or putting holes in walls and ceilings when you don’t have to. Some residences have unique situations and certain things that apply to most won’t apply to your home.

For the privilege of occupancy in any hotel or short-term-rental within the unincorporated area of Tuolumne County, each transient is subject to and shall pay a tax in the amount of 12% of the rent charged by the operator. This tax applies to any structure, or any portion of any structure, which is occupied, or intended or designed for occupancy by transients for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes and includes, but is not limited to::
Hotel, Bed and Breakfast Facility, Studio Hotel, House, Room in Private Home, Cabin, Mobile Home, Motel, lodging House, Rooming House, Guest House, Apartment House, Dormitory, Public or Private Home, RV Parks or Campgrounds