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Questions about apartment before fire

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BATON ROUGE – Code violations and questions about the proper classification of an apartment complex being rented to a group home are issues that are now overshadowed by a deadly fire Tuesday.

Before sunrise, an apartment building in the 600 block of N. Donmoor caught on fire. A man died and a second person was severely injured in the blaze.

Late Tuesday, the coroner identified the deceased as Lenard Grimes.

Fire officials said this summer, the building had multiple violations relating to smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. There were also concerns about extension cord use.

In addition to hazards, inspectors were unsure about the living conditions of the people who were staying in units rented by a third-party from the building owner as either a group home or assisted living program.

"They took care of special needs people," Frank Williams said. Williams identified himself as the property owner when he met with WBRZ reporter Brett Buffington Tuesday evening at the location of the fire.

In a violation notice dated July 23, 2015, inspectors were puzzled about if the units should be used to house people who needed specialized monitoring.

"Codes for independent assisted living must be further researched," an inspector wrote in a violation report.

Fire code violations listed the responsible party as Glory House Independent Living. A woman who was listed as an official for the organization on state documents said the apartments were up to code and promised to call back with more information. Calls were never returned and went unanswered when WBRZ tried to contact her again.

Twelve people escaped the fire Tuesday morning. Firefighters reported the building was fully engulfed when the first units arrived four minutes after the 911 call.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

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