Newspaper finds delays in fire inspection plan

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A Las Vegas rental property inspection program, which was launched in response to the deadliest residential fire in city history, got off to a slow start, with visits to only two of 36 potentially risky complexes, a newspaper found.

City lawmakers last April allowed code inspections at least once a year for properties built before 1981 that have four or more units, including aging multi-unit buildings and extended-stay buildings converted from motels or more. from hotels to apartments.

The 36 properties in the program have more than 2,000 individual units, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing city archives.

As the second anniversary approaches the deadly Alpine Motel Apartments fire, which left six people dead, the newspaper found that the timing of the initial inspections was unclear.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the program has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, staff shortages and changes among city administrators.

“I would have hoped we would have been much further along,” Goodman told the Review-Journal.

Inspections at two properties in October revealed violations, including smoke detectors not working or missing in more than half of the 60 units visited, according to the newspaper.

Follow-up visits revealed the alarms had been fixed, city spokesman Jace Radke said. Other violations included remodeling water heater units and installations without a required permit. The city has plans to re-inspect the properties this week.

Visits were tentatively scheduled for nine properties over the next two months, according to a city data log, leaving 25 buildings without an inspection date.

“I know they have a lot to do,” Don Walford, a local businessman and longtime downtown advocate, told the Review-Journal. “Seems like the city just says things, but it never follows through on it.”

In a statement, Radke said inspectors handle an average of 25,000 inspections per year. Following a hiring freeze due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city plans to hire two more inspectors to bring the total to 16. Radke noted that the city’s fire prevention officials are also enlisted. if necessary.

Quarterly training for landlords and tenants is expected to begin in 2022, and officials plan to provide an update on Dec. 15 to city council on the status of the program.

The Alpine, built as a motel in 1972, had a history of fire code violations and police calls before the fatal blaze which also injured 13 people.

An award-winning Review-Journal investigation found the property had not been inspected by firefighters for nearly three years, and officials refused to designate it as a chronic police nuisance that could have been shut down.

Inspectors found the fire had started on an unattended stove in a first floor apartment on a cold winter night with temperatures in the 1940s. Residents later complained there was had a lack of heat in the building.

The log documented that the audible fire alarm was silenced a month before the fire and a property manager ordered that an emergency exit door be locked.

The fire was the deadliest in Las Vegas since November 1980, when 87 people died and more than 700 were injured in a spectacular fire at the MGM Grand Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel is now Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.

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