BOCES Blaze Under Investigation

Area Departments Aid CP in Extinguishing Fire

By Victoria A. Caruso

A short time after midnight on Aug. 22 firefighters from several area departments were called to extinguish a fire at the former Nassau County BOCES building. The Carle Place Fire Department received a call to 234 Glen Cove Road after workers, who are in the building day and night performing asbestos abatement, noticed smoke in the basement.

Carle Place Fire Chief Daniel M. Iglesias, who was first on scene, stated that upon arrival he observed a large plume of smoke bellowing from the rear of the building. Upon entering the building, Iglesias stated that the fire was not only in the basement but had extended to the first floor and was burning through the roof in the rear of the building; the property is one story with a basement in some sections and two stories in others.

Aware that the fire was going to stretch department resources, Iglesias immediately called for assistance, which was provided by the Westbury and Mineola fire departments. The Hicksville, Jericho, Williston Park and Roslyn Fire Departments were also called to the scene and aided in extinguishing the blaze while Mineola, Nassau County and the Williston Park and Garden City Park Fire Departments provided emergency medical assistance. Four firefighters (two from Mineola and two from Carle Place) sustained minor injuries; one received medical treatment at the scene while the others were transported to Winthrop Hospital where they were treated and released a short time later.

A total of 22 apparatus and 110 firefighters battled the blaze, bringing it under control in about an hour and a half, during which time the Garden City Fire Department provided standby at Carle Place Fire headquarters.

According to Iglesias, due to the enormous size of the building, its open floor plan with firewalls breached as a result of ongoing demolition work; and the fact that the automatic fire sprinkler system was disconnected, the fire had the potential to be substantially worse.

Iglesias credits the "aggressive attack by the first few lines into the building, some being provided by the quick response of the Westbury and Mineola Fire Departments, all being backed up by the additional arrival of mutual aid departments, made the operation all fall into place." "I commend all personnel on scene for an excellent job!" he said.

The Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office as well as the police department's Arson/Bomb Squad are investigating the cause of the fire. As of press time, Vincent McManus, division supervisor for the county's fire marshal's office, said the cause was still undetermined. "We are still conducting interviews and speaking with people connected to the building and the demolition project," said McManus. "It is still actively under investigation."

The fate of the property, which has been a hot topic among area residents over the past two years, was slated for demolition later this year. According to North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, work is being done in the building under a 24-hour New York State asbestos abatement permit. All asbestos must be removed before the town will issue a demolition permit. Kaiman also stated that while work can be conducted in the building day and night, the town did place limitations on the asbestos abatement permit, in that trucks and large garbage canisters cannot be used at night.

As of press time, the fate of the property is still unclear. At a town meeting held last September, property owners AVR Realty presented ideas regarding the possible construction of senior housing on the site. As it currently stands, AVR has submitted a formal request to the town for a change of zoning to construct 118 market-rate, one- and two-story senior homes with one entrance/exit along Westbury Avenue.

The proposed request is less than the golden age multiple residential zoning allows and is less than what was proposed last September; during a public meeting the property owner had originally discussed building 122 units. The alternative to senior housing zoning, stated Councilman Robert Troiano, would be for the property to remain zoned Industrial "B," which would allow for industrial or commercial use. He said it is the town's understanding that the property owner intends to demolish the building regardless of the zoning issue.

(Editor's Note: Carle Place Fire Chief Daniel M. Iglesias contributed to this article.)

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