The fire next time

The Flume Street fire that destroyed the old Enloe Hospital building, leaving four people homeless and three businesses shuttered, brings home the importance of following the rules. Over the years the 90-year-old structure has gone through any number of remodels, many without the required city permits. City records show that the current owner of the building tried to do work without the proper permits in the past.

Included in these under-the-radar improvements, apparently, was the construction sometime within the last 25 to 30 years of the two apartments that were consumed by the fire. There is no record of any permits ever issued to approve and monitor their construction. As a result, there’s been no way to make sure the work done met updated building codes.

The cause of the fire has been determined to be a loose wire connection in the ancient electrical system in the basement, part of the original construction in 1913. Would that wiring have been permitted to stay in place if the building’s owner had gone through the proper channels? We doubt it.

Building owners and builders avoid securing permits for any number of reasons: They want to save money by cutting corners or simply not paying the fee; they don’t want the government nosing in on their work; they think they don’t need a permit because they are in the construction business and know what they are doing.

But there is a reason for permits and inspections—to protect public health and safety. In the long run, a permit fee is a small price to pay to protect people’s safety and avoid significant property damages.