WLOS: Fire code violations at Buncombe County Schools

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Screen shot 2013-05-13 at 6.33.47 PMWLOS-TV investigative reporter Mike Mason had a hard-hitting report on Monday about fire code violations at Buncombe County Schools:

A News 13 investigation exposes serious fire code violations at Buncombe County schools. We found violations have been reported year after year and now a former electrician for the school district is blowing the whistle, claiming school officials told him not to pull the required permits and life safety issues were not inspected. Buncombe County has 42 public schools and more than 25,000 students. We inspected hundreds of safety records at every school for the past 2 years and we uncovered disturbing details that led up to this alarming failure.

It isn’t the first time that Mason has scored by investigating schools. He won a big award a few years back with a similar look in Florida. From zoominfo.com:

Mason came to ABC Action News from WBBH in Fort Myers, Florida where he served as an investigative reporter.Prior to that, he was a reporter and news anchor at WXVT-TV in Greenville, Mississippi. Mike began his television career at WSVN in Miami as a writer and assignment editor.
A series on school safety violations in Lee County earned Mason the 2001 National Edward R. Murrow Award.District administrators chose not to fix fire alarms and sprinklers at any of the 68 schools in order to save money.When Mason exposed this, the state’s education commissioner threatened to keep schools closed until they were fixed.District administrators had to fix them to the tune of more than $35 million.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1


  1. Davyne Dial May 16, 2013

    When it was brought up back in Sept. 2012 for the most part they ask some softball questions.

    Video of Sept. meeting with timeline and transcript. I also have video clip of Mr. Tim Fierle stating this is “how business has always been done in the area.” http://www.tubechop.com/watch/1184337

    Here’s a transcript of timeline discussion from the Sept 6, 2012. BCBOE school Board meeting. Not the best audio, you may need earphones.
    10:10 Dr. Tony Baldwin transparency.
    12:00 Mr. Fox; addressing shredding of work orders.
    14:40 Mat Stone director permits Dept. for Buncombe County.
    24:50 Terry Gentry, Deputy Fire Marshall for Buncombe County. Explaining procedures for inspections. Says he inspects schools twice a year.
    Say he thinks BC Schools are safest in state.
    28:18 Lisa Baldwin questions Fire Marshall about fire alarms and electrical systems are performed, he responds “yes.”
    L. Baldwin says the company that services those fire alarm systems has never applied for a permit (according to documents). Gentry..says a company must have a permit from fire marshals office.
    31:42 Chris Campbell reminds if Board members have a concern, bring to Superintendent. L. Baldwin responds she’s been asking for three months.
    32:40 Steve Sizemore asks if one of his jobs is bi-annual inspections.
    Have your inspections indicated the fire systems are safe. Gentry; fire alarms meet NFPA ’72 safety standards at the time they were installed.
    Sizemore, any concerns as to safety. Gentry, will be times when on part will go out, will occasionally see trouble documented. But says before reports get dispersed he is on phone with maintenance to have problem repaired.
    36:30 Bob Rhinehart…asks for facts regarding any accusations. And they must be backed up so Dr. Tony Baldwin can investigate properly. Asks Gentry is try to meet any safety concerns in a timely manner. Gentry gives an oblique answer.
    39:37 Dusty Pless; Are you Gentlemen in compliance with most all federal, State & local regulations? Gentry; anytime I do an inspection , all in all never anything major, if I do find anything major it is dealt with immediately.
    40:50 Ann Franklin; Ask about response by maintenance. Says fire alarm or sprinkler is major priority.

    1. Jason Sandford May 17, 2013

      Thank you, Davyne!

  2. PBnJ May 15, 2013

    Saw the segment(s) yesterday. Looks like some good work done by WLOS.

  3. Murphy May 14, 2013

    What does the Buncombe County School Board think of this …

    1. Jason Sandford May 14, 2013

      that’s a very good question


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