Friday, April 21, 2006

Respect from New Square

This must now be the routine in the Hillcrest (Moleston) Fire District: Any time a call is placed for New Square, Ramapo police must accompany the volunteers as escort. They should no longer be subject to harassment for doing their unpaid jobs, and police should arrest those who interfere.

It is simply a great lack of respect that some in New Square, a religious-based village north of Hillcrest, picks on these firefighters, who are there to save lives and property. That Hillcrest fire officials, including longtime department volunteer and Rockland Fire Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr., have complained about dangerous building and fire code violations is not justification for such ill treatment.

Where are the village elders?

Hillcrest firefighters recently filed a criminal complaint claiming they had cornered two boys they believed were setting fires but that a New Square official helped them escape, saying they were involved in a religious ritual supervised by adults. Fire officials also told Ramapo police that New Square residents gathered and became hostile to firefighters as they tried to follow the two boys, according to the complaint, which seeks a criminal charge against the unnamed village official.

That confrontation was the latest dispute between the Hillcrest Fire Department and the Hasidic Jewish village. Fire officials have long complained about large trash-bin fires, young men setting blazes and dangerous buildings and conditions for fighting fires. They have been met mostly with official indifference.

While New Square leaders have said the children in the latest instance were not setting fires but were burning non-kosher food in a religious preparation for Passover, such blazes must be managed or they can get out of hand. The housing in New Square is closely placed and largely overbuilt. It would not pass any other community's zoning regulations and slaps the face of reasonable fire and building codes. Firefighters, emergency service workers and police would be hard put not to lose their lives or those of residents, including the many children who live in New Square, if there were an out-of-control blaze. It is a tinderbox of Texture-111 plywood add-ons.

Last year, Hillcrest volunteers responded to 69 New Square calls, 33 of which were for fires. Instead of blasting Wren and the Hillcrest firefighters, New Square ought to be working with them on fire prevention and better building practices. Deputy Mayor Israel Spitzer says "The relationship is fine on our end. I want to stress that we are very, very concerned about the safety of our residents. Our No. 1 priority is to make sure no one gets injured in a fire situation."

Yet the proof is in the doing, and judging from the frustration shown by the volunteers, harmony is not yet in place. Until that happens in a meaningful way, Ramapo police must monitor county Fire Radio 44-Control calls and immediately send officers to accompany the volunteers, to provide a safe escort and to arrest any resident who threatens interference.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog