Another scandal is brewing in the D.C. Fire Department, this time in the Fire Prevention Division that oversees inspections critical to public safety.
Several sources tell ABC7 that allegations have surfaced that some inspection reports were manipulated so the employee could get out of doing work.
According to fire inspection reports obtained by ABC7, an inspector went to look at three businesses in the Northwest Washington neighborhood of Bloomingdale between late May and early June - Big Bear Café, Bloomingdale Wine and Spirit, and New Reservoir Market, where owner Tadessa Kasshaun works the register. He remembers the inspection well because he says nothing came of it.
“She said ‘Everything is alright’ and she left,” he says.
But the report states Kasshaun had two minor issues and signed the original copy of the report, showing that he was aware of and would rectify any violations. He says he never received a report, let alone signed a report.
“I don’t believe this,” he says. “I don’t know why she did this. That’s crazy.”
A few blocks away at Bloomingdale Wine and Spirit, owner Rajwinder Singh says his son was present during an inspection where four violations were uncovered. The report says the recipient refused to sign, which Singh says is false.
“He said I did not sign and I did not refuse to sign,” he says.
And down the street the manager at Big Bear Café says the signature provided on his fire inspection report belongs to no one he knows.
The proprietors are at a loss to understand why this is happening.
ABC7 has learned that a Fire Prevention supervisor returned to each business in mid-June and asked each owner or manager to pen a handwritten letter to the Fire Marshal stating what happened. ABC7 has obtained those letters. The owner of Big Bear Café stated, “The signature on the document is not my signature, nor is it the signature of anyone on my staff.”
An employee of Bloomingdale Wine and Spirit stated the inspector “said that I refused to sign the inspection letter. That is not true.”
Late Monday, a Fire Department spokesperson issued a statement that could point to a broader problem, saying “The department is still investigating these incidents involving inspectors from the Fire Prevention Division and will not provide any comment on these allegations.”
The owners or managers of all three businesses said they have corrected all the fire code violations listed in the reports. Their bigger concern is if the public’s trust and safety would have been violated.