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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fire at 155 Central Street Brings Residents before Committee on Public Health and Public Safety

A porch fire started by a lit cigarette brought residents to the most recent gathering of the Committee on Public Health and Public Safety at the Winter Hill School this past Wednesday night.

A state-run transition house on Central Street has been a source for much stress for abutters who observe residents smoking cigarettes on the porch, and then throwing the still-lit remains onto the grounds below and even in neighbors’ yards. This house has experienced 4 fires in the past 6 years with the most recent occurring earlier in the month.

Residents attending the meeting spoke of a good relationship with a house master, but very little support from the parent company overseeing the home, Vinfen. One even noted people furiously cleaning the interior and exterior of the home after the fire, but before an investigative inspection was to take place. Fire extinguishers were also delivered to the house the morning of this meeting.

One common theme among the attending neighbors is that they are genuinely concerned for the residents of the house and want them to have as comfortable of life as possible. They also voiced their concern for the work load of the staff and whether more need to be hired for this location. According to one neighbor, a complaint about cigarette “flicking” was made two weeks prior to the fire breaking out on the porch. This prompted Chairman (Alderman at Large) Bill White to request a copy of all fire responses to the home.

A call to the parent company has been made by the city and the director of Inspectional Services planned to meet with them regarding their smoking policy and whether changes need to be made to it. Residents requested that a suggestion of making the home smoke-free be made to VinFen, however, the company cannot be forced to do that. ISD was looking to guarantee proper recepticals for finished cigarettes and a designated, out of the house, smoking area after their meeting with the company.

Inspectional services were allowed to tour the home, but did not find any violations and the legal amount of beds (12) allowed by their occupancy license.

Committee chairman Bill White motioned that the City Solicitor advise the group as to whether there are any fineable violations at the home and that the Chairman of Licenses & Permits (Alderman At Large Dennis Sullivan) research all licenses the company needs to obtain to order to operate. He also noted that Representative Denise Provost was researching answers to questions on the State level.

This item will remain in committee.

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