Skip to comments.I-Team Investigation: Smoke detector law ignored in Garden City
Posted on 02/23/2012 9:41:51 AM PST by eccentric
GARDEN CITY, Kansas (KSN) -- Mike Savoy vividly recalls tucking his daughter Bryn in for bed the night of January 8th.
I asked her for a kiss, remembers Savoy. She was mad at me so she said no.
Normally Savoy would relentlessly tease and torment his 6-year-old girl until she relented. This time he didnt.
But I wish I would have, you know? It was my last chance, said Savoy.
After playing with his baby Madelyn, Mike wasnt feeling well and left. He was living apart from his wife, Nichole, but saw his family everyday. He planned to bring them breakfast in the morning.
He was awakened by a call from a friend who told him Nicholes apartment was on fire. Savoy ran to his truck. He didnt even bother to get dressed.
I was frantic, you know? recalled Savoy. The moment I left my house I was praying that they were ok. But I knew, you know?
His fears were realized when he arrived at St. Catherine Hospital. His wife and his two daughters were all dead. Each succumbed to smoke inhalation.
I cherished every moment I had with them. Every moment. I loved them dearly. And I told them everyday, said Savoy.
Nicholes apartment, like many at the Garden Spot Apartment complex, did not have a smoke detector.
A 1998 state law demands all landlords install working smoke detectors when they rent out a property.
I think this is a travesty, said Savoys attorney David Rebein. I think its very simple thing to say in Kansas rental properties ought to be safe.
When confronted by KSN after the fire in January, Nicholes landlord Steve Burgess said he had never heard about the state law and had no idea it was his responsibility to provide working smoke detectors.
What we've relied upon to this point is kind of the honor system, said Rebein. You're a landlord, you should know the codes, and hopefully you're compliant.
Garden City doesnt enforce the state law. While inspections are routinely conducted on commercial businesses, rental properties are not inspected by city officials.
My feelings were since rental property is a revenue generating business, the fire department should be able to do it just like a regular business, said City Commissioner David Crase.
In 2008, Crase tried to get Garden City to pass new laws regarding inspections of rental properties. He says his effort failed after objections from many landlords who didnt want to see regulations imposed on their business.
It was basically the uproar from the landlords saying it was going to be too much of a - if you want to say - inconvenience to them, said Crase.
After hearing about the fire that killed the Savoys, Crasse says he immediately thought about the objections of landlords to enforcing the state law back in 2008.
Hes reviving his efforts this year. He says many landlords are more receptive to regulations this time around and are working with the city to update inspection codes.
Meantime, Mike Savoy is considering civil action.
I just don't really know what I'm going to do, said Savoy. I have no idea where to go with my life. At all.
Garden Citys fire chief refused to comment. He says authorities are still investigating and charges could be filed against the landlord.
God forbid that apartment dwellers take some responsibility and install their own smoke detectors. They ain’t expensive!
Oh what an onerous burden, big government save me from myself.
However, smoke detectors are viewed like many other systems (gas, electric, water) in that it is part of the sturcture of the dwelling and the landlord is responsible.
then it is the lawmakers responsibility to make sure that EACH landlord knows all the rules, the blame keeps going on.
How exactly is the gubment supposed to do that? It is incombent on the individual to know the rules and regs concerning actions they may take. As in "ignorance of the law is no excuse". This landlord is screwed and will proably lose it all as a result.
Better yet, they should pass a law requiring that all rental properties be constructed of granite or some other fireproof material.
Then there will never be another such tragedy.
The fact is, any tenant can ask any potential landlord "Hey, could you maybe install a smoke detector?" rather than depending on some marginally enforceable edict from the State for their safety.
Very true, as far as an old (might not even be available any more) simple 'hang it & forget it' detector goes.
However, most jurisdictions are now requiring hard-wired fail-safe systems.
This law seems to simply state that at the time of rental the landlord make sure the detector is there...same as he makes sure the locks, windows, water heater, sink, stove & fridge are working & haven't been stolen.
Still, the tenant bears some responsibility to report deficiencies to the management, and if ignored, can often provide & bill against rents. State/local laws vary on that.
I used to own rental property. It was unmitigated hell. Don’t do it!
oh I believe you, I have known people who... er... should never be allowed to rent
This is a tragedy. I’m all for self-sufficiency and not relying on the government for anything I can do myself, but I don’t know that I would think to MAKE SURE there were smoke detectors. Detectors are so ubiquitous in our society that we almost assume they are there. I’m sure the mother assumed so as well.