Fire Marshal Orders 'Severe Safety Watch' on CPUC Building in SF

November 22, 2017

NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit
By Jaxon Van Derbeken

The state Fire Marshal has imposed an extraordinary fire safety order on the California Public Utilities Commission headquarters since the San Francisco building failed an inspection last month, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has learned.

On Oct. 2, state fire inspectors found the fire alarm system to be inoperable at the commission’s Van Ness Avenue office, which serves as the meeting place for the five-member commission that oversees utility safety and rates.

The Fire Marshal inspectors discovered the sprinkler system had mechanical problems and had not been fully serviced in 18 years. And they found that an emergency exit door, which was apparently damaged during a break-in attempt, had been chained shut.

Authorities immediately ordered a “severe fire safety watch,” which requires the halls of the building be patroled around the clock until the problems are fixed.

The fact that such problems could be found at the building that houses a key state safety regulator was not missed on critics, like state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo).

“There’s certainly an irony in that,” said the senator, who has often criticized the commission for being lax on safety enforcement.