EVERETT (CBS) — On July 13, 2018, a multi-family home in Everett went up in flames and two firefighters were seriously injured while working to put out the blaze. The building’s two landlords have been accused of violating building codes and appeared before a judge Tuesday.
Muddasir Bari, 63, and Nargis Bhatti, 55, both of Everett, were arraigned and released on personal recognizance. They pleaded not guilty to charges of wanton and reckless disregard of fire or building codes that result in serious bodily injuries.
The two firefighters, Lt. Scott Dalrymple and Josh Doyon, were injured as they searched the home for occupants.
“The next thing I remember I was being dragged down the stairs,” Dalrymple told WBZ-TV. While Doyon eventually returned to the job, Dalrymple will never be able to be an active firefighter again. He hopes to return to the station to do administrative work by early February, though.
“Right now, I’m down to one and a half hands. Putting my socks on is a struggle. I wear sweatpants constantly because I can’t handle putting a belt off and on,” Dalrymple said.
A woman who had to be rescued from the building was also injured.
The house was “substantially overcrowded” with 19 residents and “the electrical boxes were overutilized,” prosecutors said in court.
Investigators determined the fire was caused by an electrical panel with an overloaded circuit. The home has since been demolished.
According to prosecutors, the landlords told residents the frequent inspections were only to check the smoke detectors, the residents were never told not to plug extension cords into the box.
In 2017, the house had “59 violations for lodging fire and wiring-related issues that totaled $17,700 in fines that were never paid and never rectified. There were numerous other code violations which brought the total fines to $49,000 that are still outstanding and owed,” prosecutors said.
Everett Fire Chief Anthony Carli believes it is a miracle no one was killed.
“A death — I don’t even want to imagine what that could be like and I’m thankful that he’s here today,” he said of Dalrymple.
“It’s not something that you ever want to do as a fire chief to talk about somebody who was injured, you go back to that day you see the pain and suffering that Scott went through, and Josh,” he said.
Carli was also upset to see the housing situation get to this point. He said there are many resources landlords and tenants can call upon to avoid these issues. “We didn’t want Scott to get injured. We didn’t want Josh to get injured. We don’t want to see people in court for this. We’d rather see a phone call saying ‘hey we need help,’ whether it’s a tenant, a landlord, new homeowners. We have these resources to help.”
State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said in a statement that bringing charges against Bari and Bhatti shows accountability and “support for local firefighters and building officials who enforce the codes.”
District Attorney Marian Ryan also in a statement, “Firefighters put themselves at risk whenever they respond to a fire and that is why there are laws in place to minimize risk to first responders and to the public. In this case, through their alleged violation of the building codes, the defendants are alleged to have created a dangerous situation that ultimately led to two firefighters sustaining serious injuries.”
The building code violations charges stem from the Comprehensive Fire Safety Act. The act was put in place as a result of the 2003 The Station Nightclub fire, which killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others.
Bari and Bhatti are due back in court for a pre-trial hearing on March 5.