Tuesday, September 2, 2014
County Finds No Deliberate Misconduct into Alleged Misrepresentation of Hazardous Materials Inspections;
Seeks Re-Inspections as Corrective Action

The results of an investigation by the County of Orange Health Care Agency into alleged deficient hazardous materials inspections conducted by the Garden Grove Fire Department during 2012, calls for re-inspections as the actions needed to correct inconsistencies identified in the report. The Health Agency's findings do not indicate deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the City as implied in previous newspaper statements made by former members of the Garden Grove Fire Department.

Utilizing Fire Department records, files, and personnel interviews, the report concluded that from the end of 2011, through the County's evaluation of procedures on March 26, 2013, the Fire Department conducted mandated Fire, Life, Safety Inspections for regulated businesses; however, hazardous materials inspections could not be verified as a component of each of these inspections, or performed to compliance standards. Due to the Agency's uncertainty, the Fire Department was directed by the Health Agency to conduct re-inspections, currently being undertaken.

Questions relating to the Fire Department's hazardous materials program were first identified by the County in April 2013 and were corrected by the Fire Department within the specified timelines. As a result, the Fire Department received an official letter of compliance from the Health Care Agency in April 2014.

However, as a result of a July 6, 2014 Orange County Register article that alleged misrepresentation on the part of the City by former members of the Garden Grove Fire Department, the Health Care Agency, despite having given an "all clear" to the City, conducted evaluations into hazardous materials inspections on July 31 and August 11, 2014, resulting in the latest findings.

According to Garden Grove City Manager Matt Fertal, the accusations by former members of the Garden Grove Fire Department were not only unfounded, but were done strictly to undermine and embarrass the City by former Fire Department personnel.

"I hope these findings put to rest all these ill-intended allegations of intentional wrongdoing by the City, and confirms the genuine integrity of the Fire Department that has been so strongly supported by the community," said Fertal.

The Fire Department has already commenced re-inspection of all businesses requiring hazardous materials assessments to fulfill the County's requirements and confirms that services have been done for all businesses that were accessed earlier fees by the County.

By February 2015, all inspections will be complete and noted deficiencies will be corrected to fully satisfy the Health Agency requirements.

In response to the Health Agency's findings and subsequent actions taken by the City of Garden Grove, Fire Chief David Barlag praised the response of the Fire Department and support from local business owners.

"I believe Garden Grove now has one of the most effective Haz Mat inspection programs in the County with improved operating practices to better ensure the safety of our firefighters, public, and environment."