ShareThis Page
News

Enforcement officer says county violated Greensburg fire codes

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, April 27, 2012, 2:55 a.m.

Westmoreland County violated Greensburg fire codes when it stored explosive materials with guns and ammunition in a cinderblock storage room that caught fire last month.

City Code Enforcement Officer Les Harvey notified county officials that Greensburg will withhold a new occupancy permit for the rebuilt storage room unless changes are made to separate explosive and combustible materials.

"We won't cite the county for previous compliance issues as long as they are willing to adhere to the code and in the future take precautions," Harvey said Monday.

Fire broke out early on the morning of Dec. 19 in the room where the Sheriff's Office stored more than 900 confiscated weapons, including nearly 700 guns, along with ammunition and traffic road flares.

The county is awaiting a final report about the cause of the blaze, but an initial investigation indicated a spark from an electrical heating unit suspended from the ceiling may have ignited the flares.

The courthouse sprinkler system quickly suppressed the fire, but officials fear that most of the weapons were destroyed. Early estimates have suggested the damage and repair costs could reach $1 million.

Harvey said the flares should not have been stored near the heating unit.

"It's just an expensive lesson," Harvey said.

Acting Sheriff Charles Moore said the practice of storing the flares had been in place for more than a decade and before his predecessor took office in 2000. Moore this week replaced three-term sheriff Chris Scherer, who yesterday began his job as a Common Pleas Court judge.

Moore said his office had no indication that the storage room was in violation of fire codes, until the fire.

"We will do what we're required to do," Moore said.

City officials have asked that the flares be moved to another building such as the county's public works garage in Hempfield.

County engineer Mel Wohlgemuth said early construction plans call for a concrete wall to be installed to separate the ammunition and electrical equipment from combustible materials.

Harvey said that plan would satisfy the fire codes.

No cost estimates for the wall project have been calculated, and the county is awaiting cleanup bills for the fire. Last month, county commissioners awarded two emergency contracts for the project. No cost estimates were provided.

"We haven't paid anybody yet," Wohlgemuth said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me