A Fire, The Discovery of Hazardous Materials & Likely No Accountability

Posted on July 28, 2015


Yesterday a fire broke out in a storage room of the Pasadena Courthouse on the 3rd floor. While first responders were doing their thing they ran across a bunch of hazardous materials and one firefighter was injured by noxious fumes. News reports indicate that adjacent to the fire was a bunch of oily, stain soaked rags which are known the world over for their ability to spontaneously combust.

How come the AOC’s facilities vendor didn’t know this? Are they so desperate at cutting costs that they’re grabbing the homeless that happen to walk by and giving them jobs?

This is the kind of thing that happens when everything is contracted out with vendor oversight – because there is none. And the AOC’s very few facilities maintenance are stretched well beyond their limits with each one responsible for managing vendors that are ultimately responsible for millions of square feet of court space.

This is also the result of what happens when you tell local fire inspectors that they have no business inspecting Judicial Branch facilities and that your own fire inspectors will be performing inspections on over 500 buildings and can’t possibly inspect them all. Fire inspections are typically annual and quite routine and they catch really important things and encourage occupants to stop bad habits. Oily rags, hazardous materials being improperly stored and extension cords are just a few items that fire inspectors might point out in a fire inspection.

Comprehensive fire inspections by independent entities save lives. What happened in Pasadena yesterday is but another of a long list of examples that demonstrate the utter lack of oversight by independent entities like your local fire department. When buildings were owned and maintained by the counties that they were in, fire inspections were a routine part of doing business. Today, the AOC does their own fire inspections or contracts sometimes with CalFire (the forest fighting people) to provide inspections.

Yesterdays hazmat situation caused the response of multiple hazardous material crews from other surrounding fire departments. They will likely look at the fire inspection reports and realize they have none and send the AOC the entire response bill. As they should.

Query: Do court workers or members of the public have to die before someone takes action?

The lack of local fire inspections is yet another reason to audit the facilities maintenance program at the AOC.