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Goldstein Investigates: Dozens Of Fire Safety Violations Reported at LAX

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A David Goldstein investigation has found dozens of fire safety violation reports for Los Angeles International Airport, some of which inspectors said have been repeatedly ignored.

"I'm concerned about the safety of LAX," John Vidovich, a former L.A. fire marshal, said after seeing the fire safety violations reports obtained from the Los Angeles Fire Department. "I think not only passengers, but employees working there, sure, could be at risk."

In total, there were 77 fire life safety violations written up at LAX since January 2020 in the reports. They included sprinkler system, fire alarms and fire door violations in just about every single terminal at the airport.

In some cases, the department ordered a so-called fire watch, meaning trained personnel had to keep watch because the fire systems were deemed unreliable. Other violations were stamped "forthwith," meaning it needed to be corrected immediately — but in some instances that was not the case.

The reports also included a request for legal action on nine cases where inspectors found the same violations during a re-inspection. Sources told Goldstein that the cases would be sent to the city attorney's office for possible legal action.

"Really, a fire watch is extreme," Vidovich said.

Vidovich, who retired after he was transferred out of his job in 2017 when he clashed with inspectors and reached a reported $800,000 settlement with the city, said the airport should be complying with the fire department's safety regulations.

"As a former fire marshal, I would not feel comfortable with the number of violations that seem to be blatantly disregarded at LAX," he said.

At the Tom Bradley International Terminal — where dozens of international airlines fly millions of passengers around the world — the inspector found smoke control testing was past due, testing for automatic closing fire doors was overdue by 900 days. The inspector was also unable to find any record of sprinkler testing within the past seven years, even though they're supposed to be tested every five years.

At Terminal 4, which serves American Airlines passengers, the report showed the fire alarm system had multiple trouble alarms. And at Terminal 7, the United terminal, there was no record of initial testing for the magnetically swinging fire doors even though they are supposed to be tested every year.

The inspector even wrote that L.A. World Airports had repeatedly admitted that they did not know all of the fire life safety systems currently installed in the buildings.

But when asked if the airport was safe as far as fire safety, LAWA Deputy Executive Director of Operations and Maintenance Michael Christensen said "absolutely."

"Are we in complete compliance with all the testing regulations," he said. "No, we're not."

Christensen admitted that the airport was not in compliance with all of the fire safety codes, even though it should be. He blamed it partly on construction and partly on what he said were new interpretations of testing regulations.

However, he said LAWA was working hard to correct all of the violations.

"About 73% of all violations are resolved," Christensen said. "The rest we're working on."

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas released a statement that said, in part:

"Our Fire Prevention Bureau is collaborating with LAX personnel to address all outstanding issues with their fire alarm and life safety systems and we look forward to them achieving full and ongoing compliance as soon as possible."

Sources told Goldstein that after he started asking questions, the airport was rushing to try and get into compliance as soon as possible.

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