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Boxer & Gerson Partner Dennis Popalardo appeared before the Alameda City Council on April 18 in support of a resolution to restore the city’s sworn fire prevention bureau. The professional firefighters who had previously staffed the bureau were from the International Association of Firefighters Local 689. Their positions had been eliminated in 2009 during a round of budget cuts, leaving the city with only one civilian employee fire inspector and an administrative technician. The predictable result was a mounting backlog of inspection needs and potential fire hazards in the city of nearly 80,000 residents.
Fire prevention efforts focus on rigorous and informed inspections of commercial and multi-family residential buildings in order to detect fire safety hazards that tend to grow only more serious over time, as buildings age and new owners or occupants fail to note and follow correct prevention protocols. The Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland last year, in which 36 people died because of an uninspected converted warehouse that had multiple fire hazards, stands as a prime example of what can occur in the absence of adequate fire prevention efforts.
Popalardo was joined by his Boxer & Gerson colleague Deirdre Mochel’s husband David Mitchell in encouraging the council to restore a more robust fire prevention service. Popalardo has long specialized in representing firefighters who have been injured on the job and require workers’ compensation. Mitchell is a member of the city’s Planning Board and a small business owner.
After discussion that included the fact that much of the cost of a newly expanded prevention bureau would be covered by the fees charged for fire inspections, the council voted to restore three positions that will be filled by sworn firefighters.