Anchorage fire inspectors hunts for hazards

Posted: Monday, January 20, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Anchorage Fire Department has been stepping up apartment building inspections, and inspectors say they're finding ample evidence that it's a good idea.

Holes cut in furnace room doors, combustible items stored in boiler rooms and gaps in sheetrock are a few of the safety hazards inspectors have discovered, said deputy chief for fire prevention Bridget Bushue.

The department started ratcheting up its inspection effort about four years ago, after a rash of apartment fires in 1998. Some of those buildings hadn't been inspected in more than a decade, and a 1999 municipal audit showed fire inspectors spent only a tiny fraction of their time actually inspecting buildings.

As a result of the audit, the Fire Department started putting more inspectors out on the street. Last year, they did 3,000 inspections of buildings with three or more apartments, Bushue said. In 2001, they probably did around 2,000. The department's goal is to hit every apartment building once every three years.

Inspections prevent fires, she said. The 1998 blazes ''illustrated why they're needed.''

Roughly two-thirds of the city's 6,000 apartment buildings have been inspected since April 2000. Of those inspected, around 75 percent are in compliance with the city's fire code, Bushue said.

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