9News Investigators: More than 1,200 violations found at Latter & Blum property

Source: Rick Portier/WAFB
Source: Rick Portier/WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Several cease and desist orders were issued after state fire marshal investigators found more than 1,000 violations at Copper Ridge, a Latter & Blum property.

Three state fire marshal investigators went to the Copper Ridge apartments on Friday morning on N. Lobdel. The 9News Investigators attempted to follow them, but two uniformed Baton Rouge Police officers were hired to keep them off property, along with a man who did not identify himself, but told them to "Latter & Blum said they do not want you on property. They just said call their PR guy."

The 9News Investigators waited across the street. Inside, fire marshal agents went to investigate 313 units at the complex.

Lt. Eric Johnson with the state fire marshal's office said some of the violations they found included an outlet held on the wall by tape, another outlet just hanging off the wall, several outlets without face plates, fire alarms that needed batteries, fire extinguishers that were expired.

Plus, there were carts of fire extinguishers, and according to Lt. Johnson, they were new extinguishers replacing the old, expired ones.

Agents also found exposed wires coming out of the top of AC units and hot water heaters and a junction box hanging off the wall.

"It should be secured on the wall and not just hanging by the wires because the wires can break and short something out or maybe someone touch it and electrocute themselves," said Lt. Johnson.

Other violations Lt. Johnson said they found included a screw barely hanging on a handrail and an unsafe walkway that led to agents issuing a cease & desist for that section of the complex with Lt. Johnson saying tenants had to be removed until the walkway was fixed.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said tenants at the complex were thankful for his team.

"Many of them have expressed a lot of gratefulness that we are there because there are problems and they are glad to see them fixed," said Browning.

The fire marshal added Copper Ridge and Latter & Blum had maintenance crews on staff fixing violations as they pointed them out.

Lt. Johnson said the assistant vice president of Latter & Blum walked around with them. The 9News Investigators requested an interview with Latter & Blum, but again, received a statement.

"The State Fire Marshal is conducting an inspection of the Copper Ridge Apartments this afternoon.  The Fire Marshal inspectors have complete access to the common areas of the property as well as to each of the 313 units. We have several employees dedicated to assisting the inspectors. However, as of 3:00 pm, we have not received a report on any findings from the inspectors."

The 9News Investigators asked why police officers were at the complex. They were told the officers are part of a police detail that is at Copper Ridge every day. When the 9News Investigators asked for specific times of the police detail, Latter & Blum responded.

"The security details are here for the protection of our residents. For that reason we don't disclose the times they will be working on any specific day. But I can tell you they are here every day."

However, last week, when the 9News Investigators went to Copper Ridge, there were no police officers.

The 9News Investigators also pointed out another property managed by Latter & Blum, Place Du Plantier, where AC units are on top of the roof with live wires exposed without covers.

"We would cite that," said Browning. "You don't want any exposed wiring, not only from the standpoint of electrocution, but if those shrouds are missing, those electrical units are exposed to the weather. They can short out. They can be rained on."

Browning said they are scheduled to go investigate the Place Du Plantier apartments next week. As for Copper Ridge, fire marshal investigators said they found about 1.250 violations.

The fire marshal's office cited Latter & Blum giving them till Monday to fix all deficiencies.  According to investigators, any violations that pose an immediate safety hazard and are not addressed by Monday, those areas will be deemed unsafe to live and shut down. All other violations have been given 30 days to be corrected.

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