Low water pressure from nearby hydrants hampered fire fighting efforts, officials said. In February, smoke alarm and sprinkler systems were reviewed and up to date. Investigators continue to look for the cause of the fatal fire Tuesday at an adult home in Spring Valley that took the lives of a resident and a firefighter and displaced more than 100 people.
Rockland County officials said on Wednesday that they were still working to determine what happened at Evergreen Court Home for Adults, where a blaze burned for several hours early Tuesday at 65 Lafayette St.
Jared Lloyd, a 35-year-old volunteer firefighter in Spring Valley was rescuing residents but was trapped as the building collapsed. His body was recovered Tuesday. A male resident died after being taken to an area hospital but his name has not yet been released.
Chris Kear, Rockland County’s fire services director, said on Wednesday that the investigation could take some time. Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco, whose office is involved, said it was not yet clear whether any foul play was suspected.
Firefighters and police rescued many residents from the facility, which houses 112 people, Kear said. He said 13 residents and two firefighters were taken to hospitals. One resident was in critical condition as of Wednesday morning.
Past violations, challenges at scene
While battling the blaze, firefighters became hampered by low water pressure from the area hydrants, Kear said. The firefighters had to extend the hose lines to other hydrants dozens of yards away. Low water pressure has been a consistent problem in areas of the village.
SUEZ-New York water company didn’t respond directly to the pressure issue.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life at Tuesday’s tragic fire,” spokesman William Madden said. “A SUEZ operations professional was an active member of the emergency response team at the scene, as requested by fire officials.”
The facility had been cited for 27 violations by the New York State Health Department from Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2020. There have been no enforcement actions against the operator during the reporting period, according to the department’s profile on the Lafayette Street facility.
The state Health Department noted in a 2019 citation that the facility must have its fire alarm and sprinkler systems routinely inspected. Officials did not return several requests for more details on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Rockland Department of Health found in February that the smoke alarm and sprinkler systems were reviewed and were up to date.
Kear said Wednesday that the investigation could determine whether the systems worked during the blaze and which parts of the building had sprinklers.
Evergreen Director Denise Kerr, said the entire building had sprinklers and the system was operational. There were no outstanding fire safety violations with the state or county prior to last night’s fire, she said in a statement.
The owners, the Schonberger family, bought the building about 20 years ago and has not done any major construction or additions aside from internal renovations, Kerr said. The building was constructed in 1903.
Evergreen also has rooming house and food-service establishment permits from the Rockland Department of Health, which inspects the facility to ensure compliance with the county’s sanitary code.
The last inspection for the Food Service Establishment Permit took place on Feb. 24, when inspectors found minor violations, Kear and county spokesperson John Lyon said. The violations included dirty surfaces in the kitchen, dust in the walk-in cooler, and peeling paint on the meat kitchen ceiling, Lyon said. The permit was issued and is valid until Nov. 30.
Kear said he’s not aware of any active violations at Evergreen based on the inspections of the Rockland Health Department.
Spring Valley’s annual inspection reports that would document any fire and safety code violations were not available, Assistant Village Attorney Jeffrey Millman said Wednesday. The village building department had turned over the documents to the police and other agencies investigating the fire, he said.
Millman said Evergreen had been inspected in 2020, but he didn’t know the results.