SKOWHEGAN — A Skowhegan landlord faces fines and possible jail time for code violations that were present before a July 20 fire left the building uninhabitable, the fire chief said Wednesday.

Fire Chief Shawn Howard said landlord Larry Savage is charged with criminal and civil violations at his two-unit apartment building on Beech Street. Two families were left homeless after the fire. No one was injured in the fire, which authorities initially said was caused by an overheated window fan. Once the fan caught fire, it’s believed that it fell onto a mattress in the room; but the investigation continues, Howard said.

Howard said there were serious life-safety code violations, including noncompliant walls, exposed electrical wires and a bedroom window that was nailed shut, enough to prompt a class E criminal violation of National Fire Protection Association rules, punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The civil violation is for not having working smoke detectors in a rental property and is punishable by up to $500 in fines.

“After extinguishing the fire, firefighters realized pretty quickly that there was some serious code violations that they saw in the building,” Howard said Wednesday.

The Skowhegan Fire Department’s certified building inspectors, Capt. Jason Frost and firefighter Scott Libby, entered the building, and, because of what they found, notified Skowhegan Code Enforcement Officer Randy Gray. They also determined that the building was not fit for occupancy.

The findings were reported to the state fire marshal’s office. Investigators determined violations were present, and because a fire did occur, Savage, the landlord, would be charged.

Savage, who has a post office box in Bingham, where his family runs a business, could not be reached for comment on the charges Wednesday. No one was at the building on Beech Street on Wednesday morning, and no one answered the phone at the family business in Bingham or at a home number listed under Larry Savage’s name.

Savage owns about 25 rental units in Skowhegan, Howard said.

Howard said the Beech Street building needed 20-minute fire-rated doors to the furnace room and a one-hour rating for the walls of the furnace room, neither of which were present. Investigators also found a bedroom window that had been nailed shut, preventing an emergency exit. They found live electrical wires that were not capped and not covered. The stairway to the upstairs unit did not have the required fire rating on walls for escape in the event of a fire, Howard said. The stair railings also were not up to code.

“The life-safety codes have been in place and building owners should be aware of it,” Howard said. “We’ve been putting it out there and building owners should be aware of it. It’s their job to be aware of it.”

The Fire Department sponsored a 90-minute public forum on fire safety in May, spelling out all the measures landlords must take for their properties to be code-compliant.

Howard said the Fire Department has an inspection program available to landlords and tenants who think there might be code violations.

“Our goal is to provide safety by ensuring that renters are living in a safe unit,” he said. “We expect building owners to work with us. If they are going to have buildings in Skowhegan, they will be up to code. We take that very seriously.”

Howard said Savage has agreed to work with local fire inspectors to bring the property up to code.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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