Records: Apartments where 6 died not inspected for yearsby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Minneapolis city inspectors had visited the two-story building at 3001 E. Lake St. many times for everything from graffiti complaints to routine fire code checks in the bar on the first floor.
But the apartments above the bar, which were destroyed in a fire that killed six people last week, hadn't been inspected for fire hazards since at least 1994, according to city inspection records.
One reason could be because of the city's fire long inspection cycle: Until 2005, apartment buildings would have to wait at least 15 years before being scheduled for another routine inspection for fire hazards. The building that burned was scheduled to be inspected this summer as part of the new cycle that inspects properties about every five years.
The exception to that cycle is if a resident complains to the city. In those cases, an inspector schedules a time with the renter to come by and see the property. Otherwise the city can't enter the building without the renter's consent.
A renter who lived in one of the apartments destroyed by fire last week had complained to the city last fall about the building's condition. But the fire department had to close those complaints after they couldn't reach the renter to gain access to the apartment.
Records show a renter complained about several issues, including a "rat's nest of wiring" in an old circuit breaker.
The first time the renter filed the complaint was in October 2009, but the fire department had to close the complaint because they couldn't reach the renter. A phone number the renter had given was for a hospital.
The complaint was reopened in late October, and an inspection had been scheduled for Nov. 2. The renter called to reschedule for a week later, but he canceled the inspection on Nov. 11 because he wasn't feeling well.
The renter said he planned to call the city to make a new complaint if there were no changes, so officials closed the complaint on Nov. 13. There had been no other complaints since then.
The Minneapolis Arson Squad continues investigating the fire. Officials have acknowledged fire code violations at McMahon's Pub, including missing fire extinguishers and exit signs.
McMahon's owner has said the fire code violations were corrected, and a statement on the pub's Web site says the violations have been hyped and sensationalized.
Authorities have also said they believe the fire started on the second floor of the building, so any fire code violations in the bar might not have been a factor.
A bartender who lived in one of the apartments died along with three children, their father and grandmother who were all spending the night there.
(MPR reporter Brandt Williams contributed to this report.)