Business owners, legislators criticize State Fire Marshal - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Business owners, legislators criticize State Fire Marshal's Office

By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A group of South Carolina senators want to change the way the State Fire Marshal's Office does business. A legislative investigation showed the office abused its power, and its policies caused businesses to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, for no reason. A Columbia fire supply company was one of the businesses.

It's a way for life for Carolina Fire Safety. The company has called Columbia home for more than 50 years, selling and maintaining fire equipment. Companies like this are regulated by the state fire marshal's office.
     
"They have our livelihood in their hands," said Carolina Fire Safety Vice President Sheri Hair. "They could shut our doors if they wanted to; that's extremely intimidating and scary."

That's exactly what state auditors found when they opened an investigation into the agency several months ago. Two weeks ago, auditors told a senate panel the agency made mistakes in interpreting fire codes, enforced inconsistently, and abused its power in enforcing fire laws.

"I've been around 31 years and I don't know that we've run across any enforcement like this," said Legislative Audit Council Director Tom Bardin.

A major problem auditors found was a lack of communication of fire codes between the state fire marshals and equipment suppliers. "If we're not told what a regulation is, if we're not notified by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, basically what that does is, we're out there doing business with the customer and we may be doing something that is against the Office of the State Fire Marshal and that sets us up for failure," said Hair.

Not to mention expensive fines, license suspensions or revocations. Auditors say the fire marshal's failure in code communication has cost businesses across the state thousands of dollars, because the public can't access the codes to educate themselves on the fire laws.

"This is a fire extinguisher manufactured in 2005 and what we've got here is a fire extinguisher company that did a fire extinguisher maintenance in 2007," said Bardin. "It was done four years early."

And it cost the owner of this extinguisher money he didn't have to spend. Had the owner known the fire law, he could have saved himself.

Auditors interviewed several fire suppliers across the state, and heard several stories about intimidation and retaliation at the hands of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Hair knows of those stories, too. "I really don't feel comfortable speaking of any incidents that I'm aware of," she said. "It's not in my best interest to do so."

Senators want to end those stories when they work to restructure the State Fire Marshal's Office next year.

Related Story:

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.

  • Trending StoriesTrending StoriesMore>>

  • Boy knocks over $132K statue; parents told to pay up

    Boy knocks over $132K statue; parents told to pay up

    Sunday, June 17 2018 1:05 AM EDT2018-06-17 05:05:50 GMT
    Sunday, June 17 2018 1:05 AM EDT2018-06-17 05:05:50 GMT
    An insurance company claims the parents were negligent for not monitoring their children. (Source: City of Overland Park/KSHB/CNN)An insurance company claims the parents were negligent for not monitoring their children. (Source: City of Overland Park/KSHB/CNN)

    An insurance company claims the parents were negligent for not monitoring their children.

    More >>

    An insurance company claims the parents were negligent for not monitoring their children.

    More >>
  • 5 dead after car flips in Border Patrol chase in TX

    5 dead after car flips in Border Patrol chase in TX

    Sunday, June 17 2018 5:43 PM EDT2018-06-17 21:43:51 GMT
    Sunday, June 17 2018 6:03 PM EDT2018-06-17 22:03:11 GMT

    It was unclear why law enforcement began chasing the vehicle, though a local sheriff said it was the result of "good police work."

    More >>

    It was unclear why law enforcement began chasing the vehicle, though a local sheriff said it was the result of "good police work."

    More >>
  • Live mouse found crawling in Wendy's bag of buns in OK

    Live mouse found crawling in Wendy's bag of buns in OK

    Saturday, June 16 2018 11:00 PM EDT2018-06-17 03:00:25 GMT
    Saturday, June 16 2018 11:00 PM EDT2018-06-17 03:00:25 GMT
    The Wendy's team said in a statement that they've been made aware of the situation and take the matter very seriously. (Source: KJRH/CNN)The Wendy's team said in a statement that they've been made aware of the situation and take the matter very seriously. (Source: KJRH/CNN)

    The Wendy's team said in a statement that they've been made aware of the situation and take the matter very seriously.

    More >>

    The Wendy's team said in a statement that they've been made aware of the situation and take the matter very seriously.

    More >>
  • South Carolina news on WIStv.comNEWSMore>>

  • Tough course or easy, Brooks Koepka repeats as US Open champ

    Tough course or easy, Brooks Koepka repeats as US Open champ

    Sunday, June 17 2018 8:59 AM EDT2018-06-17 12:59:32 GMT
    Sunday, June 17 2018 8:00 PM EDT2018-06-18 00:00:59 GMT
    (AP Photo/Julio Cortez). Dustin Johnson misses a putt on the 18th green during the third round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Saturday, June 16, 2018, in Southampton, N.Y.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez). Dustin Johnson misses a putt on the 18th green during the third round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Saturday, June 16, 2018, in Southampton, N.Y.
    The toughest test at US Open is getting Shinnecock Hills in the right condition for a memorable final round.More >>
    The toughest test at US Open is getting Shinnecock Hills in the right condition for a memorable final round.More >>
  • Trump adviser says 'nobody likes' family separation policy

    Trump adviser says 'nobody likes' family separation policy

    Sunday, June 17 2018 10:49 AM EDT2018-06-17 14:49:42 GMT
    Sunday, June 17 2018 8:00 PM EDT2018-06-18 00:00:50 GMT
    (Butch Comegys/The Times-Tribune via AP). U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration policy and law enforcement actions at Lackawanna College in downtown Scranton, Pa., on Friday, June 15, 2018.(Butch Comegys/The Times-Tribune via AP). U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration policy and law enforcement actions at Lackawanna College in downtown Scranton, Pa., on Friday, June 15, 2018.

    A White House adviser is distancing the Trump administration from responsibility for a jump in the number of migrant children being separated from their parents by authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border.

    More >>

    A White House adviser is distancing the Trump administration from responsibility for a jump in the number of migrant children being separated from their parents by authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border.

    More >>
  • Trump adviser Roger Stone reveals new meeting with Russian

    Trump adviser Roger Stone reveals new meeting with Russian

    Sunday, June 17 2018 4:29 PM EDT2018-06-17 20:29:54 GMT
    Sunday, June 17 2018 8:00 PM EDT2018-06-18 00:00:48 GMT
    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is ex...(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is ex...
    Special counsel examining a previously undisclosed meeting between longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone and a Russian figure who allegedly tried to sell him dirt on Hillary Clinton.More >>
    Special counsel examining a previously undisclosed meeting between longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone and a Russian figure who allegedly tried to sell him dirt on Hillary Clinton.More >>
Powered by Frankly