City Is Working to Close Gap on Required Fire Inspections

Published : Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | 6:20 PM

Photo courtesy Pasadena Fire Dept.

A Pasadena Fire Department report demonstrates that, for now, the Department is coming up short when it comes to new state-mandated building inspection requirements, although it is improving and taking further steps to address the gap.

Set for presentation May 15 at a Public Safety Committee meeting, the department’s data shows it posting but modest results when it comes to covering the two state-mandated inspection building categories in Pasadena.

The report is the result of SB 1205, which was signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in 2018, as a response to Oakland’s “Ghost Ship Fire,” where 36 revelers perished in a building that was not up to code.

SB 1205 amended existing law to require that an annual report on state-mandated inspections be made to the governing body of a jurisdiction, in Pasadena’s case, the City Council. That’s the report the Fire Department is making.

The new Health & Safety Code sections that grew out of the law require inspections, “in every building used as a public or private school, hotel, motel, lodging house, apartment house and certain residential care facilities for compliance with building standards.”

There are no penalties identified in the law for failure to comply.

Source: City of Pasadena

Public and private schools are typically classified as Education Group E. There are 96 such properties in the city and the Fire Department inspected 74 of them for a compliance rate of 77 percent during 2018.

There is one dedicated inspector assigned to the classification and performance this year is improving to the point where a 93 percent completion of required inspections is anticipated.

Hotels, motels, apartments (three units or more), and other residential properties are classified as Residential Group R occupancies, of which there are 2,673 in Pasadena. In 2018, the inspectors got around to 1,363 of them for a compliance rate of 51 percent.

Combining the two categories into “total state-mandated inspections” results in a 52 percent compliance rate.

The report lists a series of seven subcategories that fill out the total inspection inventory. This data is more difficult to decipher as not all the categories are state-mandated inspection types, while some are subject to triennial inspections.

From the corresponding subcategory Pasadenans can take comfort in knowing that all 10 sites categorized as “high-hazard” were inspected in 2018.

In an effort at increasing compliance, the department has hired one temporary worker and assigned “modified” inspection duty to rank-and-file firefighters.

The result is an upward trend in the number of inspections for 2019. Further compliance might be expected should the City Manager’s recommended operating budget request for another fire inspector be approved.

The report is coupled to a resolution. Before the Safety Committee is the question of recommending that the City Council “recognize the measure of compliance” with the new inspection requirements at an upcoming meeting.

Adoption of the resolution would establish the City’s intent to fulfill the requirements of the new Health & Safety Code sections regarding the Fire Department’s compliance with them.