Fire hazards remain at some Wake Co. schools - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Fire hazards remain at some Wake Co. schools

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

More than a year after a WNCN investigation uncovered serious fire hazards in some Wake County schools, WNCN has found repeat violations and some inspections that aren't happening as often as the law requires.

Wake County's booming system includes 150,000 students.

"The last time we checked, we were dealing with the 16th largest school district in the United States," said Charlie Johnson, the chief deputy fire marshal for Wake County.

Johnson is in charge of making sure the school system is following the fire rules with regular inspections. For example, Johnson ensures the exit systems are maintained properly and the fire protection systems are in order.

The older the building, the more difficult those inspections become. Raleigh's 74-year-old Broughton High School is a prime example. WNCN's 2012 investigation found serious fire hazards there, including obstructed hallways, blocked escape windows, obstructed sprinklers and missing fire extinguishers.

Some of those problems -- obstructed hallways, blocked windows, missing fire extinguishers -- returned in a follow-up inspection.

At Holly Ridge Elementary, extension cords were used in place of permanent wiring. Similar problems were found at Wakefield and Wake Forest high schools.

Joe Desormeaux, the Wake County Public School System assistant superintendent for facilities, said "some of the repeats, it's because … it's just high use, so we could just fix it and then 6 months later when the fire marshal comes back through, it could be that that thing is malfunctioning again."

Desormeaux, who is in charge of facilities for all of Wake County's 165 schools, said some repeat issues could be an indication of crowding. That is something that $810 million in new financing recently passed by voters should help ease.

"A lot of these renovations will add capacity to existing schools," Desormeaux said. "That way the school in particular won't be as crowded at that particular school. It will also add more electrical receptacles, for example, to match up with the technology that's being used today, so there's less there will be extension cords running across the floor."

But there's another problem with Broughton's December 2012 inspection -- it's out of date.

Inspections are supposed to happen every 6 months, but Johnson said his department is short-staffed.

"We currently have two positions that are vacant in our office," Johnson said. "We're aggressively trying to fill those positions and find people who are qualified to perform those inspections."

Broughton isn't alone. Wake Forest was last inspected 13 months ago, and the same goes for Wakefield High.

But Johnson said critical issues noticed by school administrators will still be fixed promptly.

"If we have imminent, life and safety issues, if we have serious maintenance issues that are identified, we're certainly going to follow up on those," he said.

But with a lack of inspectors, finding those issues could take longer than they should.

And the violations can actually cost the school system money. Fire inspectors can charge $50 fines per repeat offense.

WNCN wanted to follow along with a fire inspector through a Wake County school, but the school system declined that request.

RELATED ARTICLES AND LINKS

* WNCN report: School fire dangers exposed

* Wake County Public School System website

* Wake County fire services page

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

  • Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Franklin County accident causes lane closures on Brooks Mill Road

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 1:22 AM EDT2014-07-30 05:22:41 GMT
    FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS) - State Police are on the scene of an accident on Brooks Mill Road (Rt. 834) near the Ponderosa campground.
    FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS) - State Police are on the scene of an accident on Brooks Mill Road (Rt. 834) near the Ponderosa campground.
  • Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Fugitive sex offender captured in Roanoke

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 12:41 AM EDT2014-07-30 04:41:44 GMT
    ROANOKE (WSLS) - A man wanted for sex crimes against a minor was captured in Roanoke during a traffic stop.
    ROANOKE (WSLS) - A man wanted for sex crimes against a minor was captured in Roanoke during a traffic stop.
  • Roanoke Police investigate shots fired incident

    Roanoke Police investigate shots fired incident

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:37 PM EDT2014-07-30 02:37:03 GMT
    On July 29, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. Roanoke Police were dispatched to the 1200 block of Orange Avenue NE to investigate a shots fired call. Immediately upon arrival officers detained several subjects believed to have been involved in the incident. The preliminary investigation suggests the individuals involved were traveling in two different vehicles on Hollins Road when at least one of the occupants in one of the vehicles starting shooting at the other vehicle. The vehicles separated briefly and t...
    On July 29, 2014 at 6:08 p.m. Roanoke Police were dispatched to the 1200 block of Orange Avenue NE to investigate a shots fired call. Immediately upon arrival officers detained several subjects believed to have been involved in the incident. The preliminary investigation suggests the individuals involved were traveling in two different vehicles on Hollins Road when at least one of the occupants in one of the vehicles starting shooting at the other vehicle. The vehicles separated briefly and t...
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.