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Las Vegas officials present plan to prevent another Alpine Motel fire

Updated February 5, 2020 - 6:58 pm

In a direct response to the deadliest residential fire in city history, Las Vegas officials presented details Wednesday of a proactive inspection and enforcement plan for apartments and similar properties.

The program would be implemented citywide but focus on thousands of apartments downtown and in adjacent neighborhoods that account for the significant majority of fires and code violations in Las Vegas, according to Tom Perrigo, the city’s executive director of community development.

City Councilman Cedric Crear praised the plan. “It’s an overwhelming and daunting task as our community gets older every day, but I think this is a good approach to it, and we’re going to have good outcomes,” he said. “So we’ll pray that we won’t have any more incidents like we’ve had before, but I think the city’s doing something about it to move forward.”

The proposed Multifamily Residential Rental Registry and Inspection Program, expected to be introduced as a city ordinance next month, would require owners of residential hotels and motels, along with properties with four units or more, to register annually with the city.

A third-party inspection would be required every five years. City officials anticipate that they will audit 10 percent of those checkups, according to Planning Director Robert Summerfield. Liens could be imposed against properties if issues do not get fixed by a city-set deadline.

The registry would cost property owners per unit, but city officials said the fee would be “minimal” because they recognize that owners or management companies could raise rents in response. By cataloging basic information for each property, the city will also be able to contact a local representative during an emergency, even if the owner lives out of state.

Newly built rental properties and rehabbed buildings that meet the current building code would be exempt from the first round of inspections, which would begin in the fall if the ordinance is adopted.

City-led inspections at older, high-risk properties would be expected to start by April 30, according to a city timeline.

Age is a factor

Perrigo said the city determined 62 percent of its roughly 64,000 apartment rental units were in buildings built before 1993, which are not required to meet the most recent fire safety standards. But those buildings accounted for 82 percent of all fires and 94 percent of all code enforcement violations in that category of building, with many clustered downtown and in adjacent areas.

So the city has narrowed its focus to that group even as it readies to implement the program citywide.

The proposal follows the December fire at the downtown Alpine Motel Apartments that killed six people. Fire officials said the Alpine did not have a sprinkler system, and smoke detectors were defective in at least 14 locations in the building.

Las Vegas officials said Wednesday that the plan, which seeks to be less reactive in fire inspections, isn’t the first effort to do so: In 2017, the city’s fire prevention team completed more than 5,300 inspections in more than 2,400 buildings to correct nearly 7,000 fire code violations as part of one program.

That same year, the city started providing and installing smoke alarms for residents, and it has given more than 1,000 alarms at 250-plus residences to date, officials said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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