Fire officials are criticizing the landlord of a New York property that went up in flames Sunday, saying the house he was collecting $5,000 per month on was crammed with people and riddled with fire violations.
The third floor attic of the home on Columbus Avenue in Spring Valley was gutted, people's belongings left unsalvageable, after fire tore through the house early Sunday morning.
Fire officials now say there were possibly 20 people crammed into the three story house at the time, most of whom they say were illegal immigrants.
While a smoke alarm alerted a woman sleeping to the fire, one man suffered second degree burns after running back inside.
Spokesperson for the Spring Valley Fire Department Aaron Lerer told NBC 4 New York the home was illegally subdivided, and the landlord was collecting $5,000 each month for it. The basement had been turned into four apartments and the whole place was "a fire hazard, a big fire hazard".
"Each person pays rent for a single room and it's not set up for that," he said. "There is one tiny bath for those four people."
Meanwhile the fire inspector said the property owner had been cited dozens of times for fire code violations.
Landlord Yosef Frieder of Sunset LLC could not be reached for comment, both at his home and over the phone.
The situation was unacceptable, Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.
"The squalor people are expected to reside in is just wrong," he said.
He said the health department had been making strides to crack down on the problem of illegal conversions and fire danger in the areas, increasing fines to $2,000 dollars per violation per day.