The number of deaths from a horrific warehouse fire in Oakland, California are expected to rise. So far, there are three dozen confirmed victims.
The tragedy has prompted a closer look at fire codes and what’s done at the local level to keep the public safe.
The Terre Haute Fire Department Inspection Office has nearly 3,000 commercial buildings to look at within a year’s time. That’s not to mention the number of events that pop up around the city with reception areas. It’s a job that they’re out doing every day.
It’s not a sound you can ignore and it’s not one you’d want to miss. Fire Marshall Josh Cottrell took me to Club Soda’s women’s residence, a newly up to code location.
“We have women, children, men, children that stay the night and we want everybody to be safe,” building director Kevin Burk said.
A part of the code is examining fire extinguishers, making sure the size is equipped for the building and the chemicals haven’t expired.
Another part of the code, the number of exits in a building. There have to be enough doors and the openings have to be wide enough for everyone to get out safely.
Alarm systems and exit signage, are other vital requirements.
“People are occupying buildings that aren’t meant for that type of load, warehouses are meant to hold inanimate objects, not people,” Fire Investigator Norm Loudermilk said.
Parties like the one at the Oakland warehouse are popular in Terre Haute and other gatherings that typically take place in basements.
“Don’t go. If it’s at a warehouse, that probably doesn’t have the proper exits, fire protection systems, extinguishers or security,” Loudermilk said.
The next time you find yourself out at a crowded place there are some key observations to make.
“When you go someone, try to look for other ways to get out, windows or doors, or just look for escapes that way… Also if it gets too overcrowded to where you can’t see where you’re going, you’re bumping elbows with people and it’s just getting too packed, it’d probably be a good idea to start leaving the building,” Fire Marshall Josh Cottrell said.
A lot of times with fire disasters, places like a warehouse will have three times the occupancy load, which is of course deadly. There doesn’t even have to be with a fire, it becomes a hazard if the electricity goes out or a fight breaks out. Fire marshals inspect around 10 to 20 buildings per day.
These inspections are mandatory, but complaints can be made to the Fire Inspection Office, that number is 812-244-2860.