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August 6, 2009

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Apartment complex cited for 13 fire-code violations

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has cited Fairfield Management LP for 13 fire-code violations at its Henry on the Park apartment complex, 7901 Henry Ave., where a July 14 arson fire injured four people and displaced at least eight tenants.

The violations included failure to certify fire alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency electrical equipment on a yearly basis; failure to repair emergency lighting and a “defective” manual fire alarm box, and failure to replace “inoperable” smoke alarms or detectors.

L&I also found that there was inadequate signage for directing tenants to emergency escape routes and poor emergency and fire-exit sign lighting.

The violations were identified July 23 but released July 30 in a letter to Fairfield obtained by the Local.

“There was nothing so severe that it would warrant us removing people from the premises,” said Michael Maenner, director of operations for L&I.

Maenner said Friday that “all of the fire alarm issues” had been resolved, but Fairfield was working on the certifications.

“The owner has the right to due process,” Maenner wrote in a follow-up e-mail. “The owner can fix or appeal the violations unless, of course, there is a severe threat to life or safety in which the Department can exercise its power under the emergency measures section of the code.”

If Fairfield does not appeal or correct all of the violations by Aug. 27, L&I will sue the company for failure to comply.

Still, Henry on the Park tenants are skeptical about Fairfield addressing the violations appropriately.

“They have been absolutely silent,” said Ty Oehrtman, co-chair of the Henry on the Park tenants association.

Speaking from a hotel in Plymouth Meeting, where he had been staying since the fire made his apartment in Building B unlivable, Oehrtman said many residents were concerned about the quality of the facilities maintenance at Henry on the Park overall. Neither Henry on the Park managers nor Fairfield representatives have responded to requests for meetings, Oehrtman said.

“We remain deeply concerned,” said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., a Democrat representing the city’s 4th Councilmanic District, which includes Roxborough. “These violations are an indication that the public safety of residents has been compromised.

“We hope that building management will correct these violations immediately, thereby putting residents’ concerns at ease. We will continue to work with L&I to make sure resident safety is at the standard it should be.”

The tenants association has been working with Councilman Jones’ office to get answers to many lingering questions about the fire, which was allegedly started by a woman who had been leasing an apartment as part of an outpatient psychiatric treatment program called Project Transition.

Project Transition CEO Luke Crabtree told the Local two weeks ago that he was prepared to meet with tenants associations at Henry on the Park and Chestnut Hill Village to discuss the possibility of keeping his people at those sites. But Crabtree, who was away on business in Arizona, could not be reached for comment on the discussions.

Chestnut Hill Village tenants association president Thomas Lind told the Local this week that Project Transition was considering 18-hour supervision, but Lind was not prepared to make any recommendations to management until after Project Transition’s Aug. 19 meeting with the tenants association.

Residents at both apartment complexes have alleged that some Project Transition participants had been involved in incidents of harassment. But the Local has not turned up any public records documenting those incidents.

Residents of Henry on the Park have also given fire department officials “conflicting reports” about whether or not the fire alarm went off on July 14, according to Maenner.

Four residents of Henry on the Park told the Local two weeks ago that the alarm did not go off after the fire started. But Maenner said the Fire Commissioner’s office had concluded that the alarm worked that night.

Fairfield Management LP has not returned five calls for comment from the Local since July 16.



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