1. #1
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    Default Suggestions/Ideas needed: Problematic Inspection Subject

    Folks: I am a paid fire inspector in a community in Montgonmery County, Pa, working under the Fire Marshal. By ordinance, we conduct bi-yearly inspections of all rental dwelling units. This is a combination Propery Maintenance/Fire Safety Inspection, following all requirements of the PMC and the IFC.

    I have a "Problem Child", that being an 82 year old woman who is a pack rat. Her apartment is one of those "collier mansions" that is stuffed full of every concieveable kind of crap you can imagine. Her initial inspection was back in April. She was given 60 days to comply. A few days short of 60, the management of the complex called to say that she had not complied and gave me the phone number of her son. I contacted her son and explained the situation to him, and he agreed to TRY to help, and requested an extension. I granted a 30 day extension.

    After 90 days (60 + 30) went back, still nothing done. Not a damn thing.
    -In the course of the 90 days, we (the FM and myself) received no less than 10 letters from her, requesting relief from the requirements, giving every reason under the sun, from health problems and other associated personal problems, to the hot weather.
    -She requested that I NO LONGER contact her family. No problem, her son was a big help anyways.

    I wrote her a Notice of Violation, sent it via registered mail (which she signed for) giving her 30 more days to comply. Went back at the end of THAT 30 days, and still NOTHING.

    I contacted our Municipal Solicitor- at her advice, we contacted the County Dept of the Aging. After a week they called back, and determined that she is not of mental deficit- therefore they could not assist. They suggested tossing the citation at her, that they have seen it before, and if confronted with the possibility of facing a Judge, she will clean house. I am skeptical.

    My question is: Anyone ever have a situation like this before? Family unwilling/unable to assist, no apparent friends, etc etc..... Is there anything else I can do before I throw a citation at an 82 year old woman? I want to avoid this at all possible costs, but unfortunately, it is the next official action I will have to take, unless I can convince her otherwise. Any suggestions?????
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Default Suggestions

    In my opinion you have gone above and beyond to make/help her comply without throwing the citation at her. Maybe its time to tip the tables, remember our job is prevention and protection, you may feel bad for the harhness of the cite, but how would you feel if you have to go back and investigate the charred remains of her apartment and her neighbors?

    Just my thoughts

    Jerry


    Prevention is the key....ignorance is the lock

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    Gryphyn, I have one more ace card up my sleeve that I am currently playing....On the advice of another inspector, I contacted the FD Chaplain to see if he would mind talking to her, or see where/if she attended church to get their help......Well guess who happens to be one of his parishoners??

    First he is going to speak to her to see if he can get her to agree to accept help. He will explain to her that he is the absolute last hope she has before I issue a citation. If she does not accept help, she gets cited, plain and simple. If she agrees to the help, a local business has agreed to pay for a dumpster. (she has enough schit in her 1 bedroom apartment to fill at LEAST a 10-yarder, if not more!)

    Hopefully it will work out. If not, I have no other choice. I'll be sure to post the results.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Default Good Luck

    Good luck with the Chaplain, they usually have a way with people that a badge or code does not.

    enough to fill a 10 yarder? WOW!!

    If you have to cite her is that end? Here we would have to consider involuntary help (Baker Act) as she is a danger to herself and possibly others.

    Also Iwanted to point out that you saved a firefighters life by doing the inspection whether she complied or not, they will know to make cautious access now if suppression is ever needed

    let me know the out come

    Jerry

    Prevention is the key.....Ignorance is the lock

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    Any help from the health dept?
    We had a case like yours and they got a court order to have the person
    removed untill the unit was suitable to live in again.

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    Gryph- County Dept of Aging stated she wasnt a danger to herself....????? They washed their hands of involvement.

    Having been a firefighter for 17+ years, both career and volunteer, I cant agree with you more that what I am doing will save lives. At the same time, I was also taught to respect my elders, along with having a soft spot in my heart for the elderly. Hence my willing to do everything I can prior to serving her the citation, which I will do if I have to.

    Dash- thats a route I didnt think of. I will consider that if the "clergical ace card" doesnt play out. But that comes with a double-edged sword- I'll cite her AND the Health Dept may have to do their thing......I'll keep everyone informed.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    I'm just now getting around to reading this, and I have encountered the same problem (although I'm not reponsible for enforcement).

    For us it's the Department of Human Services. I do have to admit that they get on the case quickly, but they seem reluctant to force the issue.

    I'm interested to see how this pans out for you. I know it won't be easy if you have to issue the citation, but FWIW I think you've been more than generous.
    ullrichk
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    a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for

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    Sounds like CDA doesnt want to deal with the hassle. Bringing in the health dept in with court orders is an idea but as you said its a double edged sword.

    Seems like your stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, I understand respecting your elders, and you have shown her great respect.

    If the Chaplain card doesnt pan out, then you definitely have to have an alternate plan. I admire your ethic and your patience, but you will eventually have to cite her, and if it goes as I expect, that will drag on for awhile buy you more time to do some side investigation into alternate solutions. I am not sure how it works in your part of the world, but in Florida NOTHING happens fast when it involves the state or local government :-)

    Jerry

    Prevention is the key .....Ignorance is the lock

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    Quick update: Pastor has talked to her. Has made her understand that she is now "Up schits creek." His exact words were "You either accept the church's help, or you will get fined." Apparently she had to have some time to think about it, and mull it over, so he gave that to her. In the meantime, we had a meeting to plot a course of action. With the help of church volunteers, he will lead a posse into her apartment one saturday and clean house, including tossing all the crap, her furniture, everything. They will then steam clean the carpets, and the apartment complex will come in and replace her fridge and repair her stove. Church members have donated a used sofa & loveseat, a dining room set and a bedroom set for her. All of her existing furniture is infested with various critters. A local contractor has agreed to drop off a dumpster on whatever friday and pick it up on monday.

    ** All we need is her permission. ** thats gonna be the tough part! But like I said, the Pastor has and is going to "put his kind and gentle foot up her arse." (His words!! LOL!) Gotta love a FD Chaplain!

    Thanks for the tips, help and advice. I gave them until Dec 1. I will keep you posted.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Well Folks, the time has come and gone for her to comply. I really thought that the Pastor would get through to her, but unfortunately, she chose the wrong path. Even he is visibly frustrated with her stubbornness.

    Citation has been written and signed. Town Solicitor suggested allowing the Town Council to ponder it in executive session prior to serving her.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Wow! The wheels of justice turn slowly. If it gets ugly now, she can't say she wasn't warned. It's always best to be nice until it's time to not be nice.

    I hope this whole episode isn't stressing you personally. I think that you've done the right thing and you're doing the right thing.
    ullrichk
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    Technically, under the letter of the law, I could have cited her back in Sept. But in the interests of not wanting to prosecute an elderly woman, we held off, tried to solicit the help of the DOA, and then the Clergy. Those means failed, hence the long time span.

    I would be lying if I said that I wasnt upset about citing an 82 year old woman right before the holidays. But a good firefighting friend of mine helped me out by saying Would you rather cite her now and force compliance, or be at the scene doing an investigation of her (or others) fire death?
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Default Still no winner

    Now that you have done the deed, how long before it takes action? Sometimes we have to do what we have to do to protect people from themselves. Atleast once this is over you will have saved her life, and possibly the lives of her neighbors and a few firefighters.

    Its a shame people have to be so beligerent towards the laws to keep THEM safe.


    Jerry

    Prevention is the key....Ignorance is the lock

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    Don't know, Gryph- My hands are now washed of the matter until I am told by my boss to either: A. Show up in court on such and such a date, B. Drop the matter entirely, fuhgeddabouddit, or C. Go reinspect for compliance.

    As stated- Citation and accompanying documentation has been written and forwarded to the solicitor. She is so stubborn, even the Pastor said "You know what? Throw the book at her."
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Citation documents prepared today, out in the mail first thing tomorrow to the DJ's office. DJ will assign a court date, then have the Sheriff's Office hand-deliver to the defendant.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    here it is, december 17th, and i am curious still about the outcome. Any word yet buff. I know the weekend is in play, but this is interesting.

    Thanks.

    Jason
    Jason.
    Career Paramedic/Volunteer Firefighter
    Saving Lives or Basements everyday.
    Member of the IACOJ

    Goalies are the best btw :P

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    Quote Originally Posted by firefighter105 View Post
    here it is, december 17th, and i am curious still about the outcome. Any word yet buff. I know the weekend is in play, but this is interesting.

    Thanks.

    Jason

    See my previous post, #15. I dont know how long the DJ's office will take- they will issue an available date on their docket for a hearing, and then have a Sheriff's Deputy issue the citation to her with the date of the hearing.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    See my previous post, #15. I dont know how long the DJ's office will take- they will issue an available date on their docket for a hearing, and then have a Sheriff's Deputy issue the citation to her with the date of the hearing.
    sorry bud. i didn't see that one.
    Jason.
    Career Paramedic/Volunteer Firefighter
    Saving Lives or Basements everyday.
    Member of the IACOJ

    Goalies are the best btw :P

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    Still waiting to hear back from the DJ's Office. Apparently they may be having trouble serving her the citation and notice to appear.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Hearing was today. Judge was not happy with her, he felt that we went above and beyond by allowing extensions to her, and then by contacting the County Dept of Aging, and by contacting local clergy to arrange help for her- He asked her several questions, got a confirmation from her that she refused the help, and then basically torpedoed her and told her that he had no sympathy for her- she was playing the "little old lady" card on him.

    Hearing was continued for 30 days. She must comply within the 30 days- he advised her she had to cooperate with the Fire Marshal's office (me) and I would re-inspect in 25 days or so. If there is no remarkable improvement in that time, I will testify as such and he will throw the book at her. He also gave me permission to contact her family (she had previously requested that I do NOT speak to her family......) to see if I can get them to help her.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Lightbulb Hoarding

    A couple of years ago in Los Angeles County they began addressing this problem using a task force...turns out you can enforce the code all you want but 90 days or so after the property is cleaned up it will be back to the same state. They found the problem to me more of a psychological/medical type of issue then simply ignorant people. Other jurisdictions are now using the task force approach. Fairfax County has a great website that can explain it better than I-check out http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/t...tf_general.htm

    also other information can be found at
    http://www.la4seniors.com/hoarding.htm#intervention

    Here is how the task force is handling things in Orange County CA....including the writing (or not writing) of citations...
    http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister...le_1328946.php

    Hope that helps!

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    Thanks FWD for the update.

    My grandfather is like that little old lady, so it is nice to see that action can be done to keep them safe.

    Keeps the mind open.

    Appreciate it
    Jason.
    Career Paramedic/Volunteer Firefighter
    Saving Lives or Basements everyday.
    Member of the IACOJ

    Goalies are the best btw :P

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    Here we are a couple of years later, and the topic came up in another forum, so I figured I would close this one out.

    As stated in my last post, the DJ continued the case for 30 days, and gave her that to comply. In the meantime, he himself subpoenaed the Apartment Management, the County Office of Aging, and the family.

    We all went back 30 days later.

    The day before the second hearing, I was supposed to go and re-inspect her place. I knocked several times but "no one was home."

    -The family testified (and the little old lady confirmed) that they tried repeatedly to help her, and in fact one time did clean out her place while another family member took her out for the day. When they came back, the little old lady went apeschit and threatened to call the cops on everyone. In fact, the family even brought a copy of a letter that SHE had her lawyer send to them threatening legal action if they did it again.

    -The Apartment Management testified that she would never let them into her place. Due to the fact that she was "section 8" it was next near to impossible to evict her, as long as she kept paying her rent, which she did.

    -County Dept of Aging basically confirmed the fact that they dropped the ball. They never came out and said it, but in so many words confirmed the fact that they really didnt want anything to do with her because of past dealings. They did however, agree to work with the family to find her a place to live as the Apartment Management wanted her out.

    The day before the second hearing, I was supposed to go and re-inspect her place. I knocked several times but "no one was home." She admitted to the judge that she had not complied. The Judge went ballistic on her. He basically ordered her to work with her family, the Dept of Aging, and the Apartment Complex (because in the Judges words "all three of you have failed her.") He told her that if I came back in 20 days and the place was not to my liking, he would lock her up. He even arranged for a free dumpster.

    I went back on the family's request 16 days later and the place was stripped to the bare floors. They advised she would not be back.

    I reported to the Solicitor that she had complied. Never did hear if we got court costs or anything else.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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