Fire officials sometimes come across illegalities

Fire officials come upon illegal units in a variety of ways, and fires are one of the worst, said Nashua Fire Marshal Rick Wood.

In 2003, a fire at an eight-unit building on Ash Street revealed the structure was only authorized to have three, Wood said. Fire at a duplex on Anvil Street in 2004 uncovered illegal units that the tenants were building in the basement.

In order to comply with city and state laws, property owners must do their research before building and that is always where the problem lies, he said.

“Sometimes it is just lack of understanding,” Wood said. “Other times I think people recognize the difficulties that may be presented from the regulatory system if they try to follow it. Money drives everything.”

Property owners put people at risk when they build extra units without permits, Wood said, adding that the best cure after a incident brings an illegal unit to light, is to start from scratch.

“Code enforcement is different from law enforcement in that way. It is kind of like quasi-law enforcement,” Wood said, explaining that the law requires his office notify the property owner that a code violation exists, before taking further action.

“So we do an inspection, notification, education approach,” Wood said. “Give them an opportunity to make things right.”