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State Fire Marshal issues citation to filthy halfway house after WBRZ report

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BAKER- The State Fire Marshal has issued a citation to a halfway house in Baker which will now require the owner to get in compliance with state laws for commercial buildings.

The building was not equipped with smoke detectors when the State Fire Marshal showed up as the WBRZ Investigative Unit was looking into the halfway house. Immediately, Pastor Ricky Sinclair said he went out and got them for the building. The facility has also been placed on a mandatory fire watch until a fire alarm can be installed in the halfway house.

On Friday, the WBRZ Investigative Unit found rats, bed bugs, and filthy conditions inside. Sinclair immediately promised changes.

Sinclair's "All the Way House" provides shelter for about 30 men dealing with various substance abuse issues. Sinclair said right now a major overhaul is underway including: fresh paint, a cleanup of the facility, and new stalls ordered for the shower areas. The State does not regulate halfway houses unless they provide a medical service.

"As a result of your article and out of an abundance of caution, we went out there and conducted an inspection to see the conditions of the facility," State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said. "It should have been permitted as a commercial facility with the state's fire code."

On Friday, a person was found dead in St. Tammany Parish after a fire broke out in what authorities have described as a potentially illegal boarding house.

"Commercial buildings must be maintained, "Browning said. "That's the job of the fire marshal, specifically, buildings where people sleep overnight. In this scenario, they are one of the more dangerous."

Tonight, Sinclair called our report a blessing because he's now making things better for the men he's desperately trying to help.

"When you need to make some adjustments and right things that aren't right, sometimes Channel 2 can get the lead out and make it happen," Sinclair said.

The State Fire Marshal gave Sinclair 15 days to submit plans to get the building into compliance. Because it remains on an active fire watch, a Baker fire fighter must sit there and watch the place to make sure it doesn't catch on fire.

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