AFD finds thousands of faulty sprinkler heads at apartment complex, issues 312 orders to vacate

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The Alabaster Fire Department and inspectors from the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office issued orders to vacate the premises at more than 300 units at the Wellington Manor apartment complex after spending the day on March 5 conducting walk-throughs of each apartment unit to follow up on an inspection company’s report alleging fire code violations, according to AFD officials.

The AFD began inspecting units in the 18-building apartment complex near the intersection of Shelby County 11 and Shelby County 68 at 8 a.m., and issued 312 notices to vacate after discovering 2,375 defective sprinkler heads, 39 defective smoke detectors and “various other issues with systems and construction,” according to Alabaster Fire Chief Tim Love.

The inspections came about a week after the AFD received a report from a sprinkler system inspection company hired by the apartment complex in October 2018 to examine the complex’s fire suppression systems. The inspection company’s report highlighted alleged fire code violations at the apartment complex, requiring a follow-up inspection by the AFD, Love said.

“We can’t act on the inspection company’s report alone. Our guys have to go in and actually verify those infractions,” Love said during an interview after a March 4 Alabaster City Council meeting. “Once we are notified of possible infractions, we have to follow up on them. Everything we are doing is 100-percent to protect life safety.”

After verifying the fire code infractions, the AFD distributed orders to vacate to the affected apartment units.

The notice read “Alabaster Fire Department’s inspection of your apartment’s mandatory fire suppression system has failed, and for your life safety, I have no choice but to declare your apartment unsafe for occupation until conditions are remedied and a new inspection held.

As fire marshal for the Alabaster Fire Department … I have deemed this structure to be unsafe for occupation. The building constitutes a clear and inimical threat to life, safety and/or health. The building owner is directed to affect the necessary repairs by virtue of required permits to safely mitigate all hazards. At such time as all hazards have been rectified, the fire marshal will issue a certificate of occupancy.

Therefore, this premises must be vacated until such time as repairs have been made and inspected.”

Love said it’s up to each resident to make the decision they feel is best for their safety.

“The resident can take the action they feel is appropriate. The responsibility now falls on the owner of the property to correct the fire code violations,” Love said.

“The Alabaster Fire Department will be working with management through the inspection process as each unit and building is properly repaired to meet code requirements,” read an AFD statement released after the March 5 inspections were completed.

As of March 5, phone and social media messages left with Wellington Manor management had not been returned.