A fire swept through a suburban New York assisted living home and caused a partial collapse early Tuesday, killing one resident and sending two firefighters and multiple residents to hospitals, officials said. A third firefighter was missing.
Yossi Margaretten, the head of Rockland Chaveirim, said he and other Chaveirim volunteers were on the scene. When they saw the fire consuming the building and realized many of the elderly, who had wheelchairs and walkers, were still trapped, they rushed inside to rescue them.
“We had no choice” but to run towards the flames, Margaretten told Hamodia. In all, they helped 120 elderly people out of the building. Several had to be transferred to the hospital for smoke inhalation, and two were in critical condition.
Realizing it was freezing cold out, Chaveirim members who work professionally as bus drivers brought their busses to the site and transported the elderly to a nearby facility to warm up and get medical attention.
Flames gutted the Evergreen Court Home for Adults in the Rockland County community of Spring Valley, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of New York City. It has an estimated 100 to 125 residents, but authorities were working to determine the exact number, Rockland County Fire coordinator Chris Kear said.
One resident died after being taken to a hospital, Kear said. The person’s name was not immediately released.
“This was a devastating loss,” Kear said at a news briefing.
Rescuers searched through rubble for a firefighter who issued a mayday call while rescuing a resident from the third floor, Kear said. Other firefighters rushed to try to help their colleague, but the flames were too intense.
“The extent of the fire, the volume of fire, the conditions, were just too unbearable where firefighters went in it, and they just could not locate the firefighter, and they had to back out,” he said at a later news conference.
Two other firefighters were taken to hospitals. One was released, while the other was expected to stay overnight for treatment for smoke inhalation, Kear said.
Officials believe about 20 residents were taken to hospitals, some with serious injuries, Kear said.
Other residents were taken by bus to another facility, state Trooper Steven Nevel said.
U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones said he was horrified to learn of the fire in his hometown of Spring Valley.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of a resident of the Evergreen facility, and I am praying that the firefighter who bravely risked his life to save dozens of individuals trapped inside will be found safe and alive,” the first-term Democrat said in a statement.
About 125 firefighters from many agencies worked to get the fire under control. Investigators worked to determine the cause of the fire.
At one point, video showed the second floor collapsing as the fire burned. Kear said a whole portion of the building ultimately fell down.
With reporting by the Associated Press.
Updated Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 10:45 am .
Updated Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 11:34 am .