Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fire breaks out at Ramapo house tied to disputed yeshiva 

A 13-year-old girl suffered smoke inhalation Wednesday after a fire broke out at a building next door to a yeshiva that had been illegally converted from a single-family house on Highview Road.

The girl, who was treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, had been home alone in the caretaker’s house with two small dogs when an iron left unattended in a second-floor bedroom ignited the fire at 95 Highview Road, authorities said.

The house apparently lacked smoke detectors as flames left the house uninhabitable for the family of five, officials said. Tallman Fire Chief Chris Szklany said 40 firefighters responded and made short work of the fire and smoke flowing from the two-story building.

Neighbor Annette Doerr called the fire a “nightmare,” especially after she said close to 150 students at the yeshiva next door at 97 Highview Road moved close to the burning house to watch firefighters. She has surveillance cameras and said she counted the students.

“The kids all came out and went onto the lawn to look at the fire,” she said. “I’m screaming like a lunatic at them to get away. I brought them onto my lawn.”

Doerr also said she was concerned the flames shooting out of the second-floor window might spread to a town-approved trailer used as a classroom about 50 feet away.

Doerr and her husband, Bob, have been fighting Ramapo and Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan since the congregation illegally opened a school inside the single-family house at 97 Highview Road in October 2009.

Ramapo took Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan to state Supreme Court to force installation of fire-safety devices and to ensure the congregation obtain site-plan approvals and get variances. The agencies are still reviewing the plans.

Since then, the number of students and teachers has been capped at 85 for the house, but the school has added two trailers and set up classrooms on the second floor to accommodate up to 165 students.

Officials with the Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force, which reported the yeshiva to the New York State Codes Division some time ago, blasted the owners of the property Wednesday.


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