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Informal inspections at YMCA find some problems

February 08, 2002

Informal inspections at YMCA find some problems



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


During an informal inspection of the new Richard A. Henson Family YMCA last week, Hagerstown Fire Department officials found a few smoke detectors encased in plastic shrink wrap and several sprinkler heads covered with tape or painted over.

In addition, parking has been allowed in front of a fire hydrant at the YMCA, City Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said Thursday. Inside the building was a room with no ceiling in which chemicals were being kept, Hawbaker said. That meant a chemical leak could have spread through the building more easily, he said.

Hagerstown YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek said the smoke detectors and sprinklers are now obstruction free.

Of the 40 to 60 smoke detectors Hawbaker estimated are in the YMCA, three or four were still covered with plastic shrink wrap.

Also, of the roughly 560 sprinkler heads in the building, Hawbaker said four or five were covered with tape or painted over.

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Flicek said the chemicals have been moved to a room with a fan and a ceiling, and one parking space near the fire hydrant will become a no parking area.

The building passed an inspection by state and Washington County officials before it opened in early December, Flicek said. Now that the YMCA is coming into the city - an annexation of the YMCA property is scheduled to become law March 15 - Flicek said personnel will comply with any city requests.

Allen Gosnell, a deputy chief state fire marshal, and Randy Dick, deputy director of the county permits office, said the problems noted by Hagerstown fire officials may have been overlooked by their inspectors.

Gosnell said his inspectors probably would not have looked into the parking in front of the fire hydrant because that is a traffic issue, and one his office does not police.

Gosnell said the other problems were "certainly things we would have looked for. But we're not perfect. And something could have happened after we left."

"Eventually someone would have seen them," Dick said.

Hawbaker said it is "not uncommon in a final inspection" to find such problems.

"That's why we do a final inspection," he said.

Hawbaker said Assistant Fire Marshal Wayne Smith and Deputy Chief Rick Kipe did an informal walk through of the YMCA building on Jan. 29.

He said they decided to visit the YMCA because of the pending annexation of the property into the city, and because they noticed that parking was being allowed in front of a fire hydrant.

Hawbaker said there should be no parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.

After the YMCA annexation takes effect, Hawbaker said fire department inspectors will do an official inspection of the YMCA building. He said the YMCA, like a church or restaurant, will need a city assembly permit.

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