Another fire at Spring Valley apartment complex; county officials issue one violation

The fire reignited this morning, resulting in firefighters having to return to the scene.

Ben Nandy

Apr 23, 2024, 10:11 AM

Updated 26 days ago

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Officials in Rockland County are investigating the second fire in two months at the same Spring Valley apartment community - one which they have been keeping close watch due to past building and safety violations.
Second-grader Rosalee Labonte was visiting her grandmother in the #55 pod of apartments.
Labonte said they were getting ready for bed Monday evening when the fire alarm sounded at about 9:30 p.m.
"I just paused my tablet, and it kept going, So I was like, 'It's a fire,' so I was like, 'Grandma, come on. We have to go out. We have to go out," Labonte said. "I [tried] to get everything, but I couldn't get everything. My teddy bear's inside there."
Early Tuesday morning, the #55 pod of six apartments were not safe for residents to enter.
Police and maintenance workers carefully retrieved residents' important documents, medication and Labonte's pink teddy bear.
As the salvage slowly moved along, officials from the Rockland County Building and Codes Department and Rockland County Sheriff's Office tried to zero in on a cause.
At this point, they said, the fire does not appear suspicious.
One resident, who was found by the building superintendent unconscious in a hallway, was taken to the hospital with burns to her hand.
One firefighter was also hospitalized because the ceiling collapsed onto his head, local fire officials said.
Residents said this fire adds to their anxiety they have been trying to reduce since a fire on Feb. 28 on the other side of the complex that displaced more than 80 people.
"I haven't slept good ever since the fire over there," newly displaced resident Jonathan Johnson said, referencing the February fire.
After the February fire, Rockland Buildings and Codes officials were displeased with the owners because there were numerous, outstanding, unresolved building and safety violations among two of the affected buildings.
Following Tuesday's fire, their response was different.
Fire reignites during News 12 live shot
"They've been fully cooperative with us," Rockland Building and Codes Director Ed Markunas said.
Markunas said the department issued one violation Tuesday because the fire alarm did not automatically alert county dispatch.
The department is helping building management fix the problem.
Building inspector Jackenton Lavalasse told News 12 damage was still kept to a minimum because residents did not hesitate to call 911 and local firefighters responded immediately.
"With the lack of the alarm reporting [to dispatch] the way it should be, and the way that all surrounding departments reacted to triage this fire, I commend them for the work that they did," Lavalasse said.
Officials said about 50 people were initially displaced, and many will be able to move back in soon.
Lavalasse said residents of 18 more severely damaged units will likely have to wait longer.


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