House in Chestnut Ridge destroyed by fire used illegally: officials

CHESTNUT RIDGE — A single-family home owned by a religious organization that is illegally used as a rooming house caught fire with up to 21 people alive amid multiple fire and safety violations, according to firefighters Monday.

Mosdos D’Rabini’s home at 510 Chestnut Ridge Road went up in flames at 9:36 p.m. Sunday, drawing firefighters from six departments to assist Spring Valley firefighters. A dog was killed in the fire, but no one was injured, officials said.

People were illegally living in the basement and attic, and the three-bedroom home was riddled with electrical problems and other fire code violations, Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Chris Kear said. Several space heaters were used to keep people warm on a cold night and the house had no working smoke alarms, he said.

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“These residents lived in extremely dangerous conditions,” Kear said. “If this fire broke out at 2 a.m., there would have been deaths in this home. This is a classic example of endangering residents and first responders.”

The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation fire unit along with the Chestnut Ridge Building Department.

Firefighters battle flames to a home illegally used as a boarding house at 510 Chestnut Ridge Road in Chestnut Ridge

The house is located in the backyard of the United Talmudical Academy premises. UTA affiliates operate schools in Spring Valley, Airmont, Kiryas Joel, and New York City. Chestnut Ridge Road, also known as Route 45, is primarily used as a commercial corridor in the village.

The property is not licensed as a guest house and is registered with the Ramapo tax advisor as a caretaker’s residence and single-family home. The house, listed at 1,841 square feet and built in 1870, has three bedrooms and one bathroom. This home last sold for $3.2 million in July 2021 and is valued at $695,300. The property is exempt from tax.

Kear said 15 to 21 people lived in the house, using beds in the basement and attic. Usually basements and attics are not allowed to be used as living space. He said people were being taken to the Salvation Army in Spring Valley and the American Red Cross was trying to find shelter for those displaced by the fire.

Firefighters battle flames that burn a house that was illegally used as a boarding house at 510 Chestnut Ridge Road in Chestnut Ridge

Mayor Rosario “Sam” Presti said the fire is under investigation. He had few details about the people who lived in the house.

Fire inspector Kim Weppler said previous attempts to inspect the inside of the house were rejected by the owners. Inspectors need permission unless they get a court order. He said notices of violations are before the court based on an external inspection.

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