I-Team finds complex out of compliance - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

I-Team finds complex out of compliance

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SPRINGFIELD TWP., Ohio -

The 13abc I-Team has uncovered that a Springfield Township condo complex, that's seen its share of tragedy, is still not in compliance. 

The Springfield Township fire chief tells 13abc that buildings at the Hidden Cedars condo complex are missing something that could prevent future tragedies.

It's a complex off Garden Road in Springfield Township. The site has seen four serious fires in the last 16 years. Two people died in a March fire.

Despite all the issues, the place is still not in compliance, and it's not clear when or if it will be.

The most recent fire happened March 25, 2012 in Building G. Olandia Dixon died in the blaze, along with Robert McGhee, who authorities believe set it. 

"Yeah I worry about their safety. My neighbor next to me died in a fire over here," said Hidden Cedars resident Kevin Purifie. 

Purifie lost a friend in the March fire.  He worries, as does Fire Chief Barry Cousino. 

"It makes me feel somewhat uneasy," said Cousino.

The concern is a lack of fire stops. 

"We've had four large, significant fires here, and the spread of those fires typically is as a direct result of the fire stops," said Cousino. 

Fire stops are vertical partitions sealing the attic from the deck of the roof.  The double thickness drywall helps prevent the spread of fire in something like a condo.

Of the 11 buildings at Hidden Cedars only 2 have the stops.  So the 13abc I-Team asked chief Cousino if, in his estimation, the place is in compliance. 

"The nine buildings that do not have the fire stops are not in compliance with the current fire code," said Cousino.     

Chief Cousino cites the state administrative code under construction requirement for existing buildings.  It says "provisions of this rule shall not apply to existing buildings unless the conditions at the building constitute a distinct hazard to life or property in the opinion of the fire code official."  

"It's very difficult once a building is built to go back and cause the property owner to make any changes, especially when the changes are going to be as cost prohibitive as they are in this situation," said Cousino. 

Chief Cousino says there has to be a balance.

"If we really strong held the owners currently, we could force many people out on the streets.  Create financial hardships for some of the property owners here who are trying to make a living as well," said Cousino.

So he's asking owners to voluntarily install them.  Ownership is a big issue.  13abc sorted through real estate records and found that in the complex there are 64 different unit owners.

The I-Team tried to get some answers from Wilhem "Bill" Slade, the man who owns a majority of them.  He wasn't at his office but we eventually caught up with him on the phone.  He told 13abc that there's nothing new to tell us, told us to forget about this report and eventually hung up.

Residents do want answers.  Many were too afraid to talk to the I-team, saying they are worried but more worried about finding a new place to live. 

"I don't want to create any fear.  The buildings are very safe.  I just believe in particular situations or in some type of extraordinary situations that these fires are advancing much quicker," said Cousino.

13abc asked Chief Cousino if he saw a timeframe when these fire stops could be installed.

"I would love to see some time of action out here in the next year," said Cousino.    

The I-Team asked residents if they share the same optimism.

"No, I've been here for 8 years, so no," said Hidden Cedars resident Tyler Grayson.

"The sooner the better.  The sooner they get this place up and running, these firewalls, I'm sure people won't want to move out," said Purifie. 

The state Fire Marshal's office tells 13abc that the deadly fire in March is still an open investigation and has been turned over to the Lucas County prosecutor's office. 

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