In a fire that very easily could have turned to a tragedy, investigators revealed why it's a miracle no one died or was seriously hurt in a huge apartment fire in Rockland County earlier in the month.
More than 100 safety violations were found at the residential building in Spring Valley where the fire broke out on March 9. Among the dozens and dozens of violations were black mold, a corroded fire pump, balconies falling apart, overcrowded apartments, combustible materials in the hallway, faulty smoke alarms, doors that closed improperly, and more.
That last violation is of particular note, given that malfunctioning doors allowed smoke to spread during a Bronx apartment fire that left 17 people dead in January.
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"Doors and doors not closing properly is very critical in the fire. To contain the fire, you need self-closing doors and fireproof doors, which we found numerous doors did not comply with the current code," Rockland County's Buildings and Codes Director Ed Markunas said.
Inspectors said that many of the violations and warning signs were simply in plain sight.
"No fire extinguishers in the hallway, it was combustible material actually on the walls in the hallway, which is against the fire code," said Markunas.
As flames ripped through a portion of the building, a mother who asked not to be identified ran inside to save her children, and told NBC New York that smoke detectors were not working.
"No fire alarm. When I went inside to get my family, and I was coming out I saw the officer. The officer said 'No fire alarm?' and I said I don't know, I didn't hear no fire alarm," the mother said.
According to county building inspectors, none of the inspected units had smoke alarms in the bedrooms, and nearly all of the existing smoke alarms that were tested, failed. County inspectors said some of the violations found were also listed on a 2019 inspection.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Four people were taken to the hospital to be checked out.
"In this particular case, I would say we were very lucky. We avoided tragedy by the quick response of our first responders," Markunas said.
The mother who went in to rescue her children said she is very thankful her family and neighbors were safe from the fire, but still was upset with the building management for all the violations that were found.
"Look how many violations they found in this building. That means they're just thinking about putting their money in their pocket, doing their things," she said. "We don't have any safety at all in here. We all can be burning out without no fire extinguisher, no safety alarm. I don't feel safe!"
When reached for comment, the building management said to email for a statement. But the management did not immediately respond to an email request from NBC New York.