Task Force had 95 Highview Road on Watch List Before Fire

On October 23, firefighter responded to an emergency at 95 Highview Road in the Town of Ramapo. It wasn’t the first time emergency services had noticed the building.

“It’s ironic that the building at 95 Highview Road is part of the 95-97 Highview Road complex, which the Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force has already reported to the NY State Codes Division,” said John Kryger, Task Force chairman. “The Task Force was in a meeting when we received the initial fire report and remembered it was one of the addresses we gave to the state.”

Initial reports from fire authorities on the scene stated there were no smoke detectors immediately found in the building. The building, which is reported to be a caretaker rental, must have smoke alarms by state and county law, as do all rental units.

“The state Codes Division asked us for a list of properties in Rockland in which we believe the state fire and building codes are not and have not been enforced,” Kryger said. “The school at 97 Highview was one of them. It was an illegal school on a former one-family home which has been cited by the town (Ramapo) but continues to operate as it seeks tax-exempt status. If this fire had occurred at 3 a.m. instead of 3 p.m., the fire departments would be pulling out bodies from that rental unit, never mind the school.”

Neighbors across the street said they counted almost 150 students being evacuated from the adjacent school, which is only supposed to have 70 or 75 students.

“Ramapo is a ticking time bomb and this fire is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Kryger. “We’re getting nothing from the town, the supervisor and building officials but lip service in an election year and frankly I’m sick of it. The only one who seems to care is the town’s head fire inspector. If the town is going to continue with its policy of granting permissions after the fact and ignoring violations, it’s time for a higher authority to step in. And asking for court fines of $5,000 is fine, if they are ever paid, which is the town’s responsibility to collect.

“I’m putting the Town of Ramapo on notice. Clean up your act before you are party to a mass fatal fire. Stop playing politics with people’s lives.”