Exposing fire inspections not done in Cleveland, even in tall buildings: I-Team

Exposing fire inspections not done in Cleveland, even in tall buildings: I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the Cleveland Department of Fire not doing regular inspections for fire hazards even in the city’s tallest buildings.

For weeks, we requested inspection records, and we came away with what we did not see. And, we looked into what it means for your safety.

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Last September, we covered a fire burning in a high-rise apartment building on the city’s east side. And, in 2022, we saw a raging fire at the top of a downtown apartment complex.

But, the I-TEAM has found no evidence the fire department is conducting regular life safety inspections.

We requested “general inspections” of “maximum risk” buildings for the last two years. The response we received back included  “The … Cleveland Division of Fire … has not located … records …”

So, we took a closer look.

For one high-rise hotel downtown, we found no inspection records. For another big hotel, we saw only inspections tied to ballrooms and entertainment licenses.

For Tower City, we received a few receipts showing electrical work and work done on some safety equipment. But, no fire department inspections.

Records show firefighters, recently, went into a downtown apartment complex four times due to problems with the alarm system. Yet, we saw no evidence of any full inspection.

We also found no records of inspections the last four years at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Outside two high-rise apartment buildings where we’ve seen recent fires, people reacted to our findings.

One man said, “Things happen. Before you know it. Things happen.”

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And, a woman said, “I’m very concerned with the fire department and this building.”

But, the fire chief and the safety director are not answering questions on camera for the I-Team. We first started inquiring about this last year. The mayor’s office will not explain why no one from the city will address this on camera.

So, what should be happening? We requested the department’s inspections policy.  It’s dated 2018. And, it says the goal should be to do general inspections of the highest risk buildings every year.

We reached out to the National Fire Protection Association. And, we asked, “How important is it that a fire department goes in to make those checks?”

Shawn Mahoney, an NFPA fire protection engineer said, “I mean, it’s very important, especially in those higher risk buildings.”

He spoke about inspections no matter where you live.

“For fire life safety protection systems, we don’t usually use them,” Mahoney said. “And, when we really need them, we want to make sure they work properly.”

The Ohio Fire Chief’s Association also spoke in general terms about inspections.

Colin Altman told us inspections are aimed at keeping people safe if they’re in a building, or, if they’re called to that building to fight a fire.

“The nature of a fire prevention inspection for us is two-fold,” he said. “You want to know that you’ve been in there, and that that owner is complying with the fire code.”

But, in Cleveland, no records of regular fire inspections. Not even for city hall.

We will be following up as we get more records requests back concerning this, and we keep asking more questions about your safety.

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