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Cleveland Fire Dept. struggles to track businesses not up to fire code

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 9:25 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Back in April, we told you about half of commercial buildings in Cleveland are not up to fire code when it comes to maintaining fire protection systems like fire alarms, according to fire officials.

And they can’t help save lives in an emergency if they’re not working right.

“We project we’re at about 50% compliance,” said Battalion Chief Gregory Lightcap during a Public Safety Committee meeting.

This spring, Cleveland Fire officials admitted it was a problem.

They said business owners aren’t getting these systems checked often enough and fire inspectors are having a hard time keeping track of thousands of commercial properties across the city.

19 Investigates wanted to know, how are businesses held accountable if they’re not maintaining life-saving fire alarms and sprinklers?

And how many inspections of fire protection systems in commercial buildings were conducted last year?

Cleveland Fire wouldn’t give us that information outright, so we filed a public records request.

According to the records we obtained, the fire department reported in 2021 they did not document how many inspections were done for each fire protection system permit-- overall.

But, they did say, they completed 657 fire protection system permits last year and there was at least one inspection for each one.

We found CFD collected $66,423 for these permits.

19 Investigates also wanted to know what penalties building owners face if they fail to keep up their fire protection systems, something else Cleveland Fire officials wouldn’t tell us back in April.

Now, 19 Investigates has records showing the penalty is a misdemeanor.

For a first offense, there’s no fine.

But a second offense could cost up to $250 and three or more offenses cost up to $1,000.

We still don’t know how many days a building owner or business has to fix these violations once they’re notified.

Fire officials said that depends on several variables.

There are 22 fire inspectors in the city for thousands of buildings.

Fire officials want to hire a company to build a database to track this and notify companies when maintenance is due.

We learned that legislation hasn’t been introduced at city council yet.

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