New San Joaquin County Courthouse Fails Fire Safety Inspection

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STOCKTON --

The long-awaited new San Joaquin County courthouse may not open on schedule after it failed a State Fire Marshal inspection.

Apparently, doors to its 30 courtrooms, and corridors leading to and from them, aren't rated to keep crowds safe for one hour while they wait for evacuations or fire personnel to come to their aid, as required by code.

Court administrators expressed dismay that a potentially costly error could derail the opening of what will be the city's tallest building and a signature structure in the downtown area.

State inspectors see it as a normal glitch in the construction of large buildings, even though the Fire Marshal's office has been in on the design from the beginning.

“Anytime you build a building this large there’s going to be interpretations of the drawings, and there’s always deficiencies and issues that need to be resolved," said Deputy Fire Marshal Stephen Guardino.

Guardino said his office expects to see proposals for fixing the oversights in the next few days and said it shouldn't adversely affect the construction schedule, even though there are 13 floors that have to be addressed.

The cost of the upgrades, however, is unknown.

The project has already run into problems with wet weather damaging fire insulation that protects the steel frame of the building during the winter. The structure will cost just under $300 million and was due to open this fall.