The Riverbank Hotel on Third Street has had several building and fire code violations documented recently, which the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) along with the City of Riverbank and other agencies have been working on with the owner of the hotel to resolve.
A SCFPD crew responded to the Riverbank Hotel, in the 6600 block of Third Street in Riverbank, for an emergency medical incident on the afternoon of Dec. 15, 2014. Once inside the 100-plus year-old building, the emergency responders discovered multiple hazards that warranted the attention of the SCFPD Fire Marshal to ensure the safety of the residents.
Fire Chief Randy Bradley expressed that the owner is frustrated with the tenants because they may be causing some of the fire prevention issues by removing fire extinguishers, disconnecting the fire alarm systems, blocking exits, and other things that need to be in place in order to have an effective fire protection program.
“We understand that the owner actually wants to shut down the hotel,” added Bradley. “He is working with the residents to do that.”
On Dec. 17, 2014, a group of officials including the SCFPD Fire Marshal and Fire Prevention Specialist, City of Riverbank Neighborhood Improvement Officer and Building Inspector, and Riverbank Police Services conducted a thorough ‘Fire and Life Safety’ inspection at the hotel. The owner and property manager were notified of the initial California Building and Fire Code violations discovered by officials and the actions needed to correct them. Examples of the types of things in need of immediate attention included: installing smoke alarms in each room, repairing the non-functioning fire alarm system and repair/removal of structures/equipment that were unsafe or posed a fire hazard.
“The conditions in the hotel were one of the worst conditions from a fire safety perspective that I have seen,” stated Bradley. “It got my attention and we have worked extremely hard to make sure that those folks can live in a building that is safe from fire.”
Since the owner has plans to close the hotel down, representatives explained that they do not want to spend too much money or efforts on the fire protection issues.
Bradley expressed that although it may be a challenge, the building has to be safe for the residents that currently live there.
“While it is called a hotel, it operates more like apartments so people are living there for long periods of time,” said Bradley. “It is a 100-year-old building so we don’t require it to be up to the standards of new construction but we require that there are certain things from the state fire code that need to be there.”
While the fire alarm system was disconnected, SCFPD would send firemen over to the hotel to do a fire watch around the clock to make sure the residents were safe until the system was back up and running.
“So it is never my intention to shut down anything, it is only my intention to ensure that there is a level of safety for the people that live there that fall under the fire protection codes,” expressed Bradley. “So that is really what we are working on is to make sure that if there is a fire in that facility that people get out.”
The Riverbank Hotel representatives were notified of the potential for immediate evacuation of the building if deemed unsafe or if the hazardous conditions presented imminent danger to the occupants. To prevent displacing the families staying at the hotel, SCFPD provided smoke alarms for each room to ensure the safety of the residents while the building was being brought into compliance.
Since the inspection, multiple follow up meetings have taken place between SCFPD officials and the City of Riverbank, as well as with representatives associated with the Riverbank Hotel owner/property management. Fire officials are conducting weekly inspections at the hotel and it is Fire Chief Bradley’s hope that no further enforcement action will be needed.
“I am glad that our crews brought these issues to the attention of our Fire Marshal and we will continue to work with the owner/property management, the City of Riverbank and Riverbank Police Services to reach a satisfactory solution for the problems at the facility and ensure the safety of the people staying there,” stated Bradley. “We will just continue to work through it, keep an eye on it and hopefully they stay safe.”
News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.