Inspection report shows dozens of violations at Marion County Fairgrounds

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Fire Department released a 25-page inspection report Friday afternoon that revealed dozens of safety problems at the Marion County Fairgrounds, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

The report reveals the findings of a July 29 inspection by IFD, the State Fire Marshal’s office and City of Indianapolis code enforcement.

The report shows 32 boxes marked "fail" and 12 boxes marked "pass."

Violations include exposed wiring, untested emergency lights and signs, electrical panels and outlets that need repair, unsecured gas containers and fire extinguishers that need to be lowered.

In the coliseum, inspectors found combustible materials underneath the bleachers and occupant load signs that need to be posted.

Fire inspectors looked inside buildings including 4-H, community youth, administration, arts & crafts, bath house, cattle barn, coliseum, exposition hall, family arts, horse barn, poultry barn and the sheriff’s office.

In the fair office, inspectors cited the fair for a deadbolt on the inside of a door at the bottom of the stairs, which could make it difficult for people to get out during an emergency.

The state and city agencies performed the inspection after ex-director of the fair board, Jack Haefling, raised concerns about electrical issues.

Friday he said he was happy with the report.

"It’s a start, a good start," said Haefling. "It’s pretty much following our concerns.  This is about the safety of the public, the 4-H kids, and the animals."

Haefling was removed from the board last month amid allegations he made unauthorized expenditures without board approval.

MORE: Marion County Fairgrounds under scrutiny by city, state

On Friday, Haefling said it was common practice and maintains the board removed him because he was vocal about safety problems.

"I think a lot of this could have been cleared up if we had a proactive maintenance program over the last 5 to 10 years instead of waiting until the last minute to get those repaired," said Haefling.

Ron Phillips, president of the Marion County fair board, said Friday he was also happy with the report.

"A lot of the electrical issues were addressed the very next day," said Phillips. "We found something that wasn't grounded right due to a lawnmower hitting it. We fixed that immediately."

Phillips said he anticipates having everything fixed within the next 10 days.

"We've met with whole another electrical crew to get some more bids and opinions and those will be addressed within the next week," said Phillips. "Things were not as bad and bleak as we were led to believe so that made (the inspection) a positive experience."

IFD Battalion Chief and Fire Marshal Courtney Gordon said no major violations were found, however major violations typically involve sprinklers or alarm systems.

The fairground buildings are not required to have either because they were built before the law took effect, Gordon said.

Inspectors did not require fair officials to fix any of the violations on the spot.

The Marion County Fair has been operating for 84 years, typically running at the end of June and bringing in 75,000 visitors annually.

While the fair is almost a year away, the fairgrounds host other events such as the Hoosier Auto Show throughout the year and the facilities are also available for rent.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) received a complaint from Haefling on July 22 alleging 56 health and safety violations at the Marion County fairgrounds.

IOSHA is launching an investigation that could take months.

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6  | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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