Charleston apartment complex sees 64 fire safety violations

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2023 at 7:21 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A recent fire inspection by the Cainhoy Rural Fire and Rescue Department found a total of 64 discrepancies throughout the Sweetwater Apartments in Charleston.

The department inspected the complex throughout August and found discrepancies with fire safety codes. Three were corrected during the inspection and discussed with the Sweetwater Property Manager, leaving 61 more discrepancies to be fixed.

Violations included emergency exit lights not working, fire sprinkler obstructions, emergency lights being inoperable and fire extinguishers beyond service date or not tested.

One Sweetwater resident, Eric Stearns, has spoken with other residents in the complex who had no idea Sweetwater had 64 violations, leaving him and others concerned about their safety.

“If I’m not here, and my pets and the rest of my family are here, are they going to be safe? With that many violations, I don’t know if they will be,” he says.

“Not having any fire extinguishers in the building that are within date, that’s a problem. Not having emergency lights, if we needed to get out of the building, that’s a huge fire risk,” Stearns says. “There’s a lot of people that live in this building, and if we all needed to get out at the same time, we could be in a very dangerous, very dangerous position.”

The Sweetwater Apartments are required to take corrective action and fix the discrepancies by Sept. 24, according to the Cainhoy Rural Fire and Rescue Department report.

The complex claims Berkeley County told them they can make improvements until Oct. 13.

When Live 5 visited the complex on Friday, the fire extinguisher and emergency lights in one building were both not working or beyond the service date.

“Those violations show you that there’s been a lack of attention to those things for a long time; those things don’t just happen overnight,” Stearns says.

The Sweetwater Apartment Complex gave Live 5 the following statement in response to the story:

Creating safe and welcoming environments for our residents is our highest priority. Discrepancies are commonplace in these inspections from the fire department and we always work to comply with the instructions of the fire department as soon as possible after they are received.

The Notice date was Sept. 13, 2023 and we are working quickly to resolve all of the items in advance of the Oct. 13, 2023 deadline listed in the inspection report. Residents can be assured that in the interim there are no life safety concerns as it relates to this matter; critical fire safety protections and precautions at the property continue to remain in place.

Stearns adds that communication and issues within the complex has been a problem for years.

“We’ve been told multiple times that ‘we’re going to call somebody;’ a call is never made,” he says. “I’ve been told multiple times that somebody’s going to come; they don’t show up. It’s very lackluster of a response, it’s almost just dismissed.”