Houston Matters

Audit Finds Fire Department Building Safety Inspections and Record Keeping Inadequate

(Above: Houston’s Fire Station No. 7. Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public Media)Houston buildings aren’t being inspected for fire safety regularly, and the agency within the Houston Fire Department that’s tasked with the job has inflated its inspection numbers and keeps inadequate records. That’s all according to an audit of the Houston Fire Department Life Safety […]

Fire Station - Houston Fire Department - MHagerty

(Above: Houston’s Fire Station No. 7. Photo: Michael Hagerty, Houston Public Media)Houston buildings aren’t being inspected for fire safety regularly, and the agency within the Houston Fire Department that’s tasked with the job has inflated its inspection numbers and keeps inadequate records.

That’s all according to an audit of the Houston Fire Department Life Safety Bureau that was released last week by the City Controller’s office.

Today, we take a closer look at the situation with Controller Chris Brown. We had scheduled Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña to join us on the air, however a scheduling conflict arose. We’ll try to reschedule him at a future date.

Controller Brown says the audit revealed that of the roughly 5,000 apartment complexes in the audit, only 463 were inspected. However, there was accurate paperwork detailing the inspection of only 263 of those. That’s just over 5 percent of the apartments in the audit.

Brown acknowledged that many more complexes could’ve been inspected — there’s just not accurate proof.

“So it very well may be that the fire department did in fact inspect more of these, but — again — no records from the controller’s point of view then the inspection didn’t happen,” Brown said.

Buildings are inspected anywhere from once a year to once every three years, depending on the type of fire permit a building has, Brown said.

The report comes as the firefighter’s union is negotiating a new contract with the City of Houston and at the same time the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund is suing the city over the constitutionality of the pension reform law that recently passed out of the Texas Legislature. Brown says those occurrences were definitively unrelated to the audit, which he said was on his office’s audit plan from last year.

“I know people have asked and said, ‘Oh that’s curious timing,’ but it is just coincidental,” he said. “We’re doing our work. We’re focused on all of our different audits, and we’re going to keep on our audit plan and our timing and scheduling regardless of what’s happening in the political world.”

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