Canoga Park

Homeowner Says City’s Fire Code on Dumpster Compromises Her Safety

A Canoga Park woman says the city of Los Angeles and her homeowners association reached a deal on a fire code violation. The result, she says, still leaves her safety compromised.

Liudmilla Hairetdinova says the city's fire code on trash storage is hot garbage.

"If a law exists it's supposed to work," she said.

The code says trash must be at least 10 feet from any window or building opening. So in 2014, she started photographing the dumpsters beneath her window, which she says produced "a lot of smells and flies."

Concerned that a rubbish fire could burn vertically into her home, she asked her homeowners association to move the dumpster.

A member of the homeowners association says bins overflowing with trash are deal with when reported.

Hairetdinova says the trash continued overflowing. She filed a complaint with the city in 2015.

Los Angeles Fire Inspector John Novela cited the property three times for violating the rule.

"There was a lot of debris scattered you could tell people had dumped," Novela said.

So why did the dumpsters remain there? Last May, the homeowners association told Novela "it would be very difficult to update our facility to meet the existing code." That code requires sprinklers above the dumpsters or an enclosure in the parking garage.

Novela asked the homeowners association to install non-combustible, self-closing containers with locks. Last June, the containers were delivered. Photos taken by Hairetdinova show dumping continued and no locks as late as September.

When the I-Team met Hairetdinova in October, there were still no locks. Oct. 18 is when Novela documented locks on the dumpsters, two days before our interview with him.

Hairetdinova says she feels no safer, that all that's changed is the style of dumpster and a lock that if left unsecured, does nothing to improve her safety.

"I just want the dumpster moved out, that's it," Hairetdinova said.

The Los Angeles Department of Building Safety said there are often compromises made to meet the intent of code compliance. Generally, if the wording of the code contains the word "may," as in there may be options to meet compliance, then the code can be modified. If the code says "shall," as in properties shall take the following measures to meet compliance, the code is absolute.

In this case, the code has the word "shall" throughout, but the Los Angeles Fire Department maintains it has discretion in identifying ways to meet the intent of making a building safer.

The case is now closed.

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