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Phila. Officials May Consider Tighter Fire Escape Inspection Regulations

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- In the wake of this weekend's fire escape collapse that killed one person and seriously injured two others in center city, the Nutter administration says it may consider changing the city code to require that landlords provide annual proof of inspection of fire escapes.

Currently, owners of rental properties must apply for an annual rental license but are not required to submit proof that the fire escape has been inspected.

The mayor's spokesman, Mark McDonald, says city officials are focused right now on the weekend collapse (see related story), but later will consider whether proof of inspection should be added to the requirements for a rental license.

"We're looking into this tragedy, and that investigation is ongoing," McDonald tells KYW Newsradio.  "But the broader question of regulatory change is something that will be looked at down the road by the administration.  That (license requirement) would be one idea that would be looked at."

Meantime, Darryl Zaslow, an attorney for Hapco, the largest group representing rental property owners in Philadelphia, says this weekend's tragedy is a reminder of the need for the building owners to check their fire escapes.

"Property owners who are maintaining their property will of course pay proper attention to their fire escapes," Zaslow said today.  "Many are old and dangerous.  Certainly this tragedy will put in everyone's mind that they need to do better inspections, and right away."

But Zaslow admits that fire escapes are often ignored.

"It is easy to overlook -- they are frequently in alleys behind the property.  They are required by law to be at least twelve feet above the bottom of the alleyway.  So, yes, it is something that is more difficult to inspect visually," he notes.

But Zaslow adds that all rental building owners should look at this weekend's fire escape collapse as a wake-up call.

"The responsible owners should be doing the inspections on their own as a matter of course.   And the owners who are less than responsible should be forewarned by this tragedy," he said.

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