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Fire marshal making random checks to ensure businesses meeting phase 2 restrictions

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BATON ROUGE - The state fire marshal's office has started making surprise visits at businesses to ensure managers are following state guidelines meant to keep customers healthy.

"If you look at what's going on recently... With what's going on, we're really going to amp it up a little bit and do a better job of being proactive," State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said.

Starting Tuesday, Browning will issue courtesy visits at restaurants, bars, and other establishments. Agents will be making sure workers are wearing masks, sanitizing common areas, social distancing and adhering to building capacity limitations.

Browning says his main goal is to educate businesses if he sees they're doing something wrong.

"We want to make sure that when employees are in contact with patrons they're wearing masks. We want to make sure there's a big emphasis on sanitation. We're looking for spacing. We're looking for social distancing. We're mainly answering questions that business owners might have so they can do a good job on their own," Browning said.

Since phase one of reopening began, the fire marshal's office has received a total of 216 Official complaints statewide. Records show 46 of those complaints were about businesses in the Baton Rouge area.

Browning says in most cases, the problem is solved with one simple phone call.

"We're going to work with them. This is going to be a very amicable thing. It's going to be a very partnership, spirited type of thing where we answer questions they may have and help them make decisions."

The number one priority for the office is making sure people out shopping or dining are at the least risk for contracting COVID-19.

"I think we're pleading to personal responsibility. Do the right thing," Browning said.

The fire marshal's hoping businesses work with the agency so additional enforcement isn't needed. To file a complaint with the fire marshal's office, call 1(800) 256-5452.

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