SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — One resident died and one firefighter and one resident are missing as a massive fire tore through an assisted living home for adults in the village overnight.
About two dozen residents were rescued and several were seriously injured after the fire broke out shortly before 1 a.m. at the Evergreen Court Home for Adults.
One resident died after being taken to a hospital. Chris Kear, Rockland County Director of Fire and Emergency Services, said around 11:20 a.m. that one resident and a Spring Valley firefighter were missing. No other details on the resident who died or the missing firefighter and resident were immediately available.
“It’s a sad day on many fronts,” Kear said, though he noted that first responders “saved numerous, numerous lives here.”
Kear called the actions of first responders “heroic.”
The fire was still burning shortly before 11 a.m. as smoke and haze filled the airt. Smoldering embers were seen on the ground as people from neighboring apartments sat on their lawns to watch the scene.
Thiells firefighters poured water on the building from a ladder truck as other firefighters stood by, waiting for their turn to go in and search for the missing firefighter. All of Rockland’s fire departments are volunteer, which Kear emphasized in his praise of first responders’ efforts.
“We’re some of the best trained in the state, if not the nation,” he said. “We pride ourselves on the work we do here as volunteers. Spring Valley is the busiest fire company in Rockland County by far. They’re very experienced. That company and all the mutual aid companies, when they get on the scene and there are people trapped, they know what to do and the priority is to rescue those residents.”
The missing firefighter is a member of the Spring Valley Fire Department who was one of the first people on the scene and was helping rescue residents. Officials believe he got lost on the third floor while he was working to rescue people and could not find his way out in a section of the building that eventually collapsed. First responders are looking for him.
“We have numerous teams digging through the rubble,” Kear said. “We are currently going to bring in a mini excavator to start pulling apart the remaining large pieces of rubble piece by piece so we can locate this firefighter and bring him home.”
The missing firefighter made a mayday call, which firefighters make when “they’re in a perilous condition,” Kear said.
Firefighters were looking for him as the fire raged before they had to exit the building.
“The conditions were just too unbearable. They had to back out,” Kear said.
When the blaze was called in at 12:52 a.m., there were reports of residents trapped and there were flames shooting out of the building, where the fire spread from the first floor up through the roof and burned for more than six hours. Smoke was still rising from the debris shortly before 11 a.m. as firefighters continued to work on extinguishing the fire.
“This is a very old building,” Kear said. “It’s a frame building. It’s had numerous additions on it. I believe it was a partial sprinkler system in the building. The sheer size of the building and the amount of the fire is what’s making it take so long.
Spring Valley police and firefighters began rescuing people, with about 20 to 30 residents rescued, Kear said. The blaze spread to half of the long building, and about 125 firefighters from 26 fire departments in Rockland and Bergen counties ended up responding.
About 10 residents and two firefighters were taken to hospitals, Kear said. Several of those residents were in serious condition.
No cause of the fire has been determined yet. In addition to Spring Valley police and firefighters, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, state police and state emergency services are helping investigate.
County officials believe there are about 100 to 125 residents at Evergreen, an adult care facility that offers assisted living, nursing home and continuing care for older adults. Residents not injured were transported to another local facility.
“We are still trying to figure out the exact number of residents that were actually in the building,” Kear said. “The numbers are fluctuating as we do the head count. We are still trying to work with the owner of the building to find the exact number of residents.”