Friday, February 12, 2010

NOLA Art House: The Fire Department's Side

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 5:51 PM

By the looks of the comments section, this little incident has caught quite a stir in our little community. First, and foremost, I'd like to ask that people remain civil. As I've said before, name calling is not productive and while we encourage lively debate, it seems like the comments are sliding down a spiral of vitriol and racial tension. The Art House is home to a wide variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds just as is the Treme neighborhood, so trying to pigeonhole one as a "hipster commune" or the other as just "the ghetto" is completely unfair and unproductive. Come on, people, its Mardi Gras and the Saints are Super Bowl Champs. Let's just try to get along.

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In any event, the New Orleans fire department sent out a press release regarding the situation at 1614 Esplanade. It mentions the cease and desist order and the numerous code violations but makes no mention of the tree house structure or why the residents remain without power.

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Also, the art house residents have set up a blog for taking donations to help raise money to fix all of the code violations found in the house (and which, quite frankly, could be found in most houses in New Orleans).

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EDIT: Here's the relevant quotes from Fire Chief Norman Woodridge on the subject of the code violations from Doug McCash's article:

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As [Woodridge] explained, some electrical circuits in the Art House were overloaded and some terminals were “basically exposed.” In addition, the house lacked a fire alarm system, posted emergency instructions, lighted exit signs, and acceptable escape routes from all of the quarters.

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At 8:20 p.m., Woodridge issued a news release saying Thursday’s “cease and desist” order stemmed from the failure of the property owners to correct safety and code violations found in the Jan. 25 inspection. The violations were “based on change of use or occupancy, primary means of escape, electrical code infractions and the lack of detection, alarms or communications system.” The news release emphasized that the department had not ordered anyone out of the house or off the property.

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“It’s a residential property. It’s being used more like a boarding house,” Woodridge said in an earlier interview.

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He said the coming cold snap made things especially hazardous. If “a space heater or something like that overloads a circuit, that could be devastating,” he said.

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The full text of the Fire Department's press release is after the jump:

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New Orleans Fire Department

Charles Parent, Superintendent

317 Decatur Street

New Orleans, LA  70130

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Date: February 11, 2010

Contact:   Chief Norman Woodridge

Phone:        (504) 658- 4713

Weekend and Holidays: (504) 671-3939 for PIO duty person

Fax:             (504) 565- 7848

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Code Violations, 1614 Esplanade

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New Orleans, LA. – On Thursday, February 11, 2010 the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) issued a Cease and Desist order for the property located at 1614 Esplanade Avenue due to code violations. The NOFD was notified by the New Orleans Health Department with concerns of fire code violations.

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On the January 25, 2010, the NOFD inspected the property at 1614 Esplanade and found numerous fire code violations that would put the occupants in harms way in terms of bodily injury and property damage. The life safety and code violations are based on the change of use or occupancy, primary means of escape, electrical code infractions, and the lack of detection, alarms or communication systems to name a few. A copy of the statement explaining these violations was issued to the project property manager on January 25th. An inspection was conducted today and none of the violations were corrected.

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The NOFD at no time ordered the occupants out the house or off the property. The NOFD concern is strictly and exclusively life safety due to the cold weather conditions predicted for the up coming days. The NOFD also forwarded contact information for emergency housing to management of the property.

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