After a minor fire in August 2020 and complaints from their landlord, management at Universal Meditech Inc. wanted to know what it would cost to bring the south-central Fresno facility to code, according to an architect hired by the company.
Nicholas Crawford, principal at Crawford Architecture & Planning gave the company information on how to correct code violations so it could start getting construction costs, he said. After they stopped paying his invoices, he stopped working for them, Crawford said.
“I was in contact with Universal Meditech Inc. in February of 2021 to help with rectifying unpermitted interior construction at 1320 E. Fortune Ave., Ste. 102,” Crawford wrote in an email to GV Wire. “I toured the facility and took some photos. The space was bizarre and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Inside the warehouse portion of the facility, there was lab equipment, containers of liquids, refrigerators, deep freezers, and live and dead mice.”
The supplies and biological materials at the lab were later found in a Reedley warehouse in March. Inspectors found samples of HIV, tuberculosis, chlamydia, malaria, and the disease that causes COVID. They also found 1,000 lab mice.
Destruction of the materials was expected to wrap up Tuesday, authorities said. The mice were euthanized in April.
Inspectors Find Safety, Electrical Code Violations
City of Fresno inspectors found safety and electrical violations after the fire. Inspectors sent a list of violations to correct, but COVID complicated the city’s ability to follow up, according to statements from city officials.
A court order forced the company to remove construction alterations in 2021, said UMI CEO Xiaoxiao Wang in an email to Fresno city inspectors. Destroying added walls hindered development at the company and complicated its ability to obtain new medical certification qualifications, Wang said.
Inspectors followed up in October 2022 after landlord North Pointe BP LP complained to then-Fresno Fire Department Chief Kerri Donis.
Inspection reports from October 2022 cite many of the same violations found in 2020 after the fire.
The company left Fresno in November 2022. One of UMI’s creditors, Prestige Biotech, took control of the assets. On Aug. 2, Fresno city officials denied an application from UMI to reopen.
Below are some of the photos Crawford took.