Denver Fire in 2015: Rhinoceropolis “is an abandoned warehouse with people living in it”

According to records of fire department inspections at Rhino and Glob over the past five years, every inspection ended with no violations. Except one.

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When Denver Fire suddenly evicted five people and closed DIY art spaces Rhinoceropolis and Glob last week, tenants and leaseholders at the live-in venues said fire department inspectors had been in the space frequently, were well aware of its uses and never raised any concerns.

According to records of fire department inspections at Rhino and Glob over the past five years, every inspection ended with no violations. Except one.

On Nov. 3, 2015, an inspector recorded one count of a violation described as FPBPLZ and noted, “This is an abandoned warehouse with people living in it.”

The inspection form, like all of the other inspection forms, says, “If any violations have been found, this shall serve as your final notice.”

The next inspection came on July 22, 2016. The form says no violations were noted.

The last five inspections at Rhino were on:

  • July 22, 2016
  • Nov. 3, 2015
  • July 8, 2014
  • May 16, 2013
  • Aug. 19, 2012

The last five inspections at Glob were on:

  • Aug. 30, 2016
  • Sept. 1, 2015
  • July 8, 2014
  • Oct. 22, 2013
  • Aug. 26, 2012

The fact that anyone was living at either space was only noted that one time. No other violations were recorded in any of those reports. Several different inspectors visited the spaces, some more than once, but the inspector who cited the violation in 2015 was not involved in any other inspection.

Fire department spokeswoman Melissa Taylor could not be reached for comment this evening. We will update when we learn more from her.

During a press conference about the violations and evictions, she said “an occupancy fell through the cracks” in past inspections. When, after the press conference, Denverite asked directly if the fire department knew people were living there, she said, “It should have been escalated sooner, and we take full responsibility for that.”

Update: Taylor reiterated in an email what she said at the press conference, writing, “We are aware that some of the inspections conducted by our fire company in this case fell short of our expectations and should have been escalated to our Fire Prevention Division.  As mentioned Thursday, this situation has precipitated some additional enhancements to our technology as well as made us aware of some additional training opportunities for the firefighters conducting predominately routine inspections.”

The building is zoned for industrial mixed-use, which means people can live there if the proper permits are obtained. Taylor said Rhino and Glob did not have those permits and did not have smoke detectors or a sprinkler system.

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