CLEVELAND - Hundreds of Ohio child care centers have been cited for fire inspection related violations since 2011, according to state records obtained by NewsChannel5 Investigators.
Our exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation found 542 violations, including 394 violations for overdue fire inspections at licensed centers around the state.
Inspectors listed 183 of the overdue fire inspections as “serious.” State officials said the violation is considered “serious” when an inspection is “egregiously” overdue or the center’s owner has made no effort to schedule a fire inspection.
For example, Abacus Infant Toddler Center on 1037 Wyley Ave. in Akron failed to schedule a fire inspection in 2012 and 2013.
When the center was inspected in January, the fire inspector scheduled a re-inspection 30 days later to make sure the center fixed violations, including ceiling tiles and an emergency light in need of repair.
Parents of children who attend Abacus Infant Toddler Center said they were unaware it had missed inspections.
“That's definitely something I am going to speak to them about ... because my kids’ safety could be in danger,” said Katelyn McIntyre, whose two daughters attend the center.
Our investigation also found 47 centers were cited for having violations that required re-inspection.
In Ohio, child care providers are responsible for calling their local fire departments to schedule a yearly inspection.
Cleveland Fire Department spokesman Larry Gray said there is no reason centers should fail to schedule their inspection on time.
"They're taking the most precious commodity that we have, and that's our children, in their hands, and you think they would want to stay in compliance and make sure that they're providing the best care that they can for our children,” said Gray.
Gray said a fire inspection can identify dangerous risks.
“When we come in, we're looking for certain things and we're not going to bend those standards. You definitely have to have your alarm system. You definitely have to have exit signs. You have definitely have to have evacuation plans and all of those should be very visible ... and our most important is those means of egress are open and accessible,” he said.
The consequences of a fire at a daycare center can be devastating.
On March 4, Waterman’s Wonderland Day Care Center in Sullivan County, Indiana caught fire.
EmmaLea Lloyd, 20 months, died of smoke inhalation.
“It was the worst day of my life,” said George Lloyd, EmmaLea’s father.
Lloyd told us his daughter “was the pinnacle of my life. My greatest achievement of anything I have ever done.”
"My life is forever changed. I can't see any other parent feeling any other way,” he said.
Sullivan County Fire Chief Rob Robertson said the fire was ruled accidental and likely caused by an object hitting a baseboard heating unit.
Waterman’s Wonderland Day Care was up to date on its fire inspections, according to Indiana records.
Abacus Infant Toddler Center was inspected in January. The fire inspector returned 30 days later to make sure violations; including broken ceiling tiles and a broken emergency light were repaired.
Owner Kimberly Her Baugh declined several interview requests, but sent us a form showing the center is now in compliance.
The news was a relief to mom Bianca Jones, whose 2-year-old son goes to the center.
"We have to go to work and we put our trust in the daycare providers,” she said.