’Ignorance of the law is no excuse’: CFD responds to claims made by CHA director

’Ignorance of the law is no excuse’: CFD responds to claims made by CHA director

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Columbia Fire Department is responding to claims made by the Columbia Housing Authority after its executive director claims he was not aware of the change in International Fire Code that requires carbon monoxide detectors in units with fuel-burning appliances.

During a special called meeting on Wednesday, CHA Executive Director Gilbert Walker provided an update on relocation efforts as well as the ongoing inspections and installation of carbon monoxide detectors with CHA owned properties.

He said the process is ongoing, as crews work to ensure detectors are installed in units across CHA properties with fuel-burning appliances. In addition, CHA oversees 4,000 Section 8 voucher units owned by private landlords. During the special meeting, the board authorized Walker to hire private contractors to expedite the process of inspecting the units occupied by tenants with vouchers.

The Columbia Housing Authority self-inspects and also receives inspections by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, Walker told the board during HUD’s most recent inspection of Allen Benedict Court apartments in 2017, it did not mention anything about carbon monoxide detectors.

“To my knowledge, it’s not a requirement HUD has,” Walker said. “HUD came into our units in 2017 and carbon monoxide detectors were never mentioned, it was never mentioned. I found out a couple of weeks ago a new law was passed in 2015.”

Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins responds to CHA director

In 2015, the International Fire Code was updated to require all units with fuel-burning appliances to have working carbon monoxide detectors. Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said it is not his firefighter’s responsibility to inspect the units when they receive call for service.

“We’re not walking around the unit checking for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, or carbon monoxide detectors,” he said. “I think, if you’re doing self-inspections, you ought to keep up with the law. You have a duty to make sure there are upgrades in codes and laws that you stay on top of it.”

Within the Columbia Housing Authority’s Administrative Plan, it outlines for HUD what it considers “life threatening conditions.” Within that, it notes “missing or inoperable carbon monoxide detectors” as a condition.

“I find it very difficult…two people have died and somebody needs to take responsibility and it’s not going to fall on the shoulders of the Columbia Fire Department,” Jenkins said.

The Columbia Fire Department is working to collaborate with code enforcement officers to inspect all properties owned by CHA in the near future.

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