Evergreen Court: Rabbi conducted annual cleaning of kitchen with blowtorch ahead of fatal fire
Evergreen Court has confirmed that approximately an hour and a half before the fire broke out at the assisted living facility Tuesday, a rabbi conducted a koshering process in the building's kitchen using a blowtorch ahead of Passover.
Three government and religious leaders tell News 12 the facility's fire alarm system was taken down. However Evergreen Court says the fire and sprinkler systems were fully functioning and that they notified fire officials of the annual cleaning ahead of time.
Officials say the rabbi, who has conducted the cleaning process for 15 years without incident, wrapped up around 11:15 p.m. Monday, about an hour and a half before the fire alarm went off.
Evergreen Court says the fire alarms went off at 12:45 a.m. and by 12:53 a.m., a receptionist called 911.
While they say there's no indication the cleansing started the fire, Chris Kear, Rockland's director of Fire & Emergency Services says he doesn't have enough information about it and that the cause is still under investigation.
Three religious and government officials say Evergreen's fire alarm system was turned off.
Evergreen is denying those allegations, saying their "alarm and sprinkler system remained fully functioning" and that they alerted the fire department of the cleansing ahead of time so there was "no delay in response time."
Kear says sometimes systems are turned offline to prevent false alarms. He also says they do not know if the entire building had sprinklers and that their alarm system was offline.
"It's still operational. It just doesn't transmit to the alarm company or the dispatch center so if the alarm activates in the building, which it did in this case, it still alerts the residents in the building," he says.
Sources say it was likely turned offline because of the cleansing ritual.
Fire officials say they're looking into whether the entire building had functioning sprinklers and said a major issue was water pressure.
In order to get enough water, they had to connect their larger hoses to fire hydrants 3,200 feet away.
Investigators say they still don't know the cause of the fire and will be looking into whether the fire system being offline caused any major delays, why the water pressure was so low close by and if everything in Evergreen Court was up to code.