7 Investigates: Lackawanna fire reports show Bethlehem plant had no sprinklers or smoke detectors

Building was last inspected in 2014
Posted at 11:06 AM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 18:41:06-05

More than one month after the massive fire at the old Bethlehem steel plant, Lackawanna city officials have released fire inspection reports that show the building was last inspected in 2014. 

The reports show the building was generally up to fire code -- there were no violations cited -- though there are two notable blank spots in the report:

In addition, it is unclear exactly when the building was inspected. The front of the report states the time of inspection as 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2014. 

But at the end of the report -- next to Fire Inspector William Tojek's signature -- the report date is listed as May 9, 2014. 

Tojek on Monday did not respond to a message left for comment on these discrepancies. 

Here is the full inspection report:

It would not be unusual to wait two years between inspections for a commercial building, according to Dave Raines, president of the New York State Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association.

But recent fires like the one in Anaheim, Calif., are starting to change attitudes and could lead to changes in best practices in fire codes, he said. 

"Any of these old warehouse-type facilities that get changed over into something else...the perfect example is the Anaheim fire, that's the glaring example of a tragedy," Raines said. "That's a building that was used for something else. And the city allowed that use -- we're assuming they allowed it because it was going on for a while -- and 36 people end up dying."

He added: "I think we're going to see a lot of change now in enforcement as everyone looks at Anaheim and says, 'Wow, do I have one of those buildings in my city?' Because I'm sure there are a ton more out there that are just like the Anaheim setup."

Raines said although there is a statewide fire code, many re-purposed buildings like the old Bethlehem plant are run through the local regulatory process, which often includes approvals by the city Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals.

A search through the previous three years' worth of planning and zoning board minutes on the Lackawanna website shows not a single mention of the old Bethlehem site being repurposed as storage in 2014.