A fire that killed five young adults Saturday morning is renewing attention on the safety of Portland’s aging apartment buildings, and on recommendations made more than a year ago to beef up the city’s safety inspections.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy like we just suffered to get people to focus,” said City Councilor Edward Suslovic, who chairs the council’s public safety committee. Suslovic said Monday that the fire department needs to focus more of its resources on inspections to educate residents and deal with dangerous properties.

The lack of regular, periodic safety inspections was cited in a 2013 report, in which a consultant recommended more staffing in the city’s fire prevention bureau, among other improvements. Portland has had a policy goal of annual inspections for larger apartment buildings, but officials have focused the city’s resources on reviewing new development plans and have been unable to keep up with regular inspections of a housing stock that is among the oldest in New England.

It was not clear Monday whether the house at 20-24 Noyes St. met the city’s safety standards, or if it had been inspected by fire safety officials.

City officials have refused to release any fire or code inspection reports for the 94-year-old building. Over the weekend, spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the city was withholding that information as part of the investigation. On Monday, Grondin said the city’s legal team was reviewing a formal Freedom of Access Act request filed by the Portland Press Herald.

Although information relevant to an ongoing investigation can be kept confidential, courts have required government officials to explain specifically what is being withheld and why, said Sigmund Schutz, a First Amendment lawyer who represents the Portland Press Herald.

“At a minimum I think the city ought to be disclosing whether there was a complaint (about the building), who made it, and some other information,” he said. “It’s not acceptable to say as a blanket matter, ‘We have an investigation, ergo everything is confidential.’ ”

Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria on Monday declined to describe the department’s regular inspection program for multifamily homes. Grondin said an official would be made available Tuesday to discuss the program.

State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said Portland’s safety code only focuses on residential properties that have three or more dwelling units, as well as on commercial and mixed-use properties. The house that burned Saturday had two units.

However, if a two-family unit is fully rented, which Noyes Street was, and it is the subject of a formal complaint, than it gets treated as a three-family unit, according to the city’s website.

A neighbor told the Press Herald that she filed a complaint with the city’s code department in May, based on the exterior conditions of the building.

City safety standards include the requirement that each bedroom have an “egress window” and a smoke alarm, according to the city’s website. Alarms also must be located just outside of the bedroom and on each living level. Older structures may be grandfathered from these restrictions if they have undergone a major renovation, Thomas said.

The 2013 consultant’s report clearly recommends that the city shift more resources from putting out fires to preventing them.

Leslie Adams, president of Public Safety Solutions Inc., which conducted the top-down review in Portland, said in an interview earlier this year that such a shift is “even more important” in Portland than in other cities because of its densely packed neighborhoods of old, wood-frame apartment houses.

“If you can prevent a fire, you won’t have to fight it later on,” Adams said.

The state of Maine does not have uniform rules for how often apartment buildings should be inspected for working smoke alarms, fire escapes, fire exits or self-closing fire-rated doors, which can prevent the spread of fire. It is up to municipalities to set their own rules, and many cities and towns respond only to complaints and do no regular safety inspections.

Portland’s goal of annual inspections appears to be more ambitious than some other Maine communities surveyed by the Press Herald earlier this year.

While South Portland inspects apartment buildings with three or more units annually, Lewiston inspects apartments and businesses once every four years. Auburn inspects apartment buildings every four years, but inspects businesses annually.

In Portland, individual fire companies are charged with conducting inspections. When violations are identified, a fire captain and a lieutenant handle enforcement. However, those two individuals are also responsible for reviewing new development plans, which have increased in number in the past two years. Earlier this year, Fire Capt. Chris Pirone estimated he spent 80 percent of his time reviewing new development projects.

The 2013 consultant’s report also lists a variety of other shortcomings with the program, such as violations being left unresolved and delayed notification of landlords when problems are found.

The report says Portland has nearly 4,900 businesses and apartment buildings that should be inspected annually under the city’s standing policy. However, in 2012, only 60 percent of those properties were inspected.

“In addition to the obvious life-safety risk implications for citizens, tourists and firefighters due to not completing a citywide fire safety code inspection program on a regular basis, this omission could present a significant liability should a questionable fire scenario present itself in a property that has not been inspected or has not been inspected for a long period of time,” the report states.

The report suggests a total of 10 full-time inspectors would be needed to conduct annual safety inspections.

Councilor Suslovic said the city once considered and rejected charging landlords a fee per unit to fund an annual inspection program.

Also, the city used to conduct regular “block inspections,” where firefighters would knock on doors and inspect properties throughout the day, he said. “For some reason we have gotten away from that,” Suslovic said.

Since the 2013 report was issued, he said the city has been primarily focused on reducing wait times for permitting new developments.

In light of Saturday’s tragedy, Suslovic said he will be looking to beef up the inspections program by working with the city manager and fire chief to allocate existing resources.

Mayor Michael Brennan made similar comments Sunday in the wake of the deadly fire. “I’m certainly going to talk to (city officials) and see if we need to take more aggressive action and pay more attention to some of the conditions of buildings within the city,” Brennan said.

At a City Council meeting Monday, Brennan asked for a moment of silence for the fire victims, those injured in the blaze and all of their family members. Brennan also praised the response to the fire.

“I also want to thank profusely the fire chief and the police chief and all of their staff, and all of the people from the Red Cross and other supporting agencies for the tremendous amount of work that they did,” Brennan said.