Columbia will carryout a fire safety inspections across the county

Published 11:49 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Columbia has incurred an unbudgeted expenditure estimated at $6,000 to carry out fire safety inspections on 107 stores, shops, churches, and other public buildings inside the town, Rhett White, town manager, told the board of aldermen on December 4.

State law requires such inspections at least every three years, but White said only schools, group and foster homes, businesses with license requirements, and businesses with reported safety hazards have been inspected for fire safety since the mid-1980s.

“Most towns and counties don’t inspect for fire safety,” he said.

A State fire code consultant visited Columbia in October after a complaint was made to the State Fire Marshal’s office, White reported.

Bob Rosser, director of strategic affairs in the state Department of Insurance, explained in an email to this reporter. “The initial complaint was about the town not maintaining fire access roads which would/could potentially damage fire apparatus or cause additional property loss based on the inability for the fire department to access the property. The complainant called, but did not leave a name…”

“This has a code impact because some concessions can be made for code compliance based on fire department access,” Rosser also stated. “In the process of researching this, concern was raised about the number of fire inspections occurring.  A visit was scheduled to the county and the city to determine what level of inspections were occurring.  When that visit occurred it was determined that no fire inspections were occurring at the county or city level.”

White reported that on November 8, “the town was directed to begin the process of inspecting all businesses, churches, public buildings, group homes, etc., prior to the end of November and set up a plan for periodic inspections.”

White told the aldermen on December 4 that two inspectors were working at the time, and the project should be completed by December 15.

The town has never charged for fire safety inspections, White said, “instead performing them as a courtesy. Long-term we must adjust our building inspection fee schedule to cover costs such as this and to better reflect the actual cost of the building inspection program.”