On Saturday, November 1st, five young people, all in their twenties, died in a tragic fire at an aging rental property on Noyes Street in Oakdale. A sixth victim died after three days in a Massachusetts burn unit.
The building had fourteen complaints against it since 2003. Complaints ranged from trash that was attracting rodents to an illegal unit. City inspectors called 20-24 Noyes Street a “neglected property,” as recently as June 2014.
City officials continue to assist in the investigation to determine a cause. This includes evaluating whether the landlord of this property has violated any city codes, and whether or not legal action is warranted.
The City will be establishing a task force to review fire and code inspections policies.
The task force will include representatives from Fire, Police, Inspections, Social Services, Corporation Counsel, a local landlord association, as well as technical assistance from other cities that have been through similar events.
There is no indication that any tenants’ rights groups, or other tenant representation, will be a part of the task force. According to recent census statistics, more than half of Portland residents live in rental units.
The City’s Inspections Division has operated as a complaint driven system for the last ten years. The division includes a team of three inspectors that handle land use, building, plumbing, and electrical inspections, and one inspector that handles citizen complaints.
Complaints are from trash, disorderly properties, outdoor dining, hoarders, illegal units, and much more. Complaints are prioritized based on life safety hazards. More than 850 inspections have been performed in the last year as a result of complaints.
For anyone who has any fire safety questions or concerns, call 207.482.LIFE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All tenants and homeowners should practice three essential fire prevention methods:
1. Check smoke detectors to make sure they are in working order.
2. Replace smoke detector batteries on a semi-annual basis.
3. Establish and practice a fire escape plan.