Tuesday, June 28, 2016
A four-story building packed with apartments and with reported safety violations caught fire Monday afternoon, leaving one unit in the building uninhabitable, authorities said.
The fire apparently ignited inside a large closet in the finished attic, which had two bedrooms and a bathroom, Hillcrest firefighter Chris Kear said.
Kear and Building Inspector Manny Carmona, also a firefighter, climbed several flights of smoke-filled stairs, opening doors of several rooms before finding the flames. Kear said the closet measured 8 by 12 feet and had a light.
"We searched a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom before we found the flames," Kear said. "We had the fire under control within 15 to 20 minutes."
Kear said the fire's cause remains under investigation by Sheriff's Office fire unit detective Douglas Lerner.
Kear estimated the building has eight to 10 apartments.
The scale led Hillcrest Assistant Fire Chief Frank Youngman to call for mutual aid from Spring Valley Fire Department.
The building is located in the older section of the village where houses were built without adherence to fire and safety regulations when the community formed in the 1950s, Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said.
The owner of the commercial building has been in court for lacking a certificate of occupancy and for other violations, Wren said.
Wren said the building is "one of the worse" in the village, as it lacks a sprinkler system and working smoke detectors, among other violations.
Kear and Wren said Carmona issued additional violation notices Monday to the owner, listed as Congregation Merkaz Ginas Verodim on the Ramapo Tax Assessor's website. The congregation has an address of 29 Roosevelt Ave. in the Skver Hasidic Jewish village.
No one from the congregation could be reached for comment.
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