NY Fire Officials Claim Owner Dawdled in Alarm Installation

Nassau County (NY) fire officials claim that a property owner of Hempstead Village apartment, where there was a deadly fire two weeks ago, was slow in putting in a new automatic fire alarm system.

The 78-apartment complex had several previous violations with the Nassau County fire marshal's office and management had been ordered before superstorm Sandy struck on Oct. 29 to install a new fire alarm system, fire officials said last week. The fire marshal approved the plans on Jan. 2 and work began after that.

The installation was still under way when the Feb. 9 fire started, claiming the lives of Guadalupe Ramirez, 37, and her 8-year-old son, Fernando. About 250 residents, most still in their pajamas, were forced out of five adjoining apartment buildings and into snow-covered streets.

"We continuously gave them violations for the fire alarm system," Michael Uttaro, general inspection division supervisor of the fire marshal's office, said about the property owner and manager, Dorchester Llc of Oyster Bay. "They had a Band-Aid system . . . They had been dragging their feet installing the new system," he said.

Before residents were allowed to return to neighboring unaffected buildings, Dorchester Llc had to upgrade the emergency lighting and complete the installation of the new fire alarm system that covers hallways and common areas, Uttaro said. The fire alarm system, automatically or manually activated, is intended to alert the fire department and notify occupants to evacuate, he said.

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