A Pomona man was found dead this morning as volunteer firefighters were battling a suspicious blaze in his apartment, according to fire officials.
The man's apartment and the apartment above in Building 8 at the Palisades Gardens apartment complex at 8 Charles Lane in Pomona were damaged and residents of other apartments had to be evacuated, Hillcrest Fire Chief Lloyd Hovelmann said. Power and gas service was cut and Hovelmann said Orange and Rockland Utilties crews were now working on restoring service so residents whose apartments were not damaged can return home.
The Rockland County Sheriff's Department Bureau of Criminal Identification and Haverstraw police and the Rockland County Medical Examiner's Office are investigating the fire and the death. It was not yet certain what caused the apartment resident's death.
Hovelmann said an emergency call came from the complex — which is just across the street from a Hillcrest firehouse — came in about 10:33 a.m., with a resident reporting smoke in the building. However, he said firefighters learned a short time later that there was a working fire at the building.
Hovelmann said that because of the time of the fire, there were initially few volunteers on hand to fight the fire. But he said that because key members of the department were among the first to arrive at the apartment, they were able to take control of the scene and call in help from neighboring fire departments. Hovelmann said those first firefighters were on the scene within minutes of the first call for help.
In addition to volunteers from Hillcrest, firefighters from West Haverstraw, Thiells and New City were called in to assist in battling the blaze. Firefighters from Stony Point and Monsey were called in to standby in case of other emergencies.
Hovelmann said no firefighters were injured in fighting the blaze.
Rockland County Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren said Hillcrest firefighters went back to the scene of the fire this afternoon because remnants of the fire had rekindled.
Wren said the usual post-fire efforts to make sure there were no hidden pockets of smoldering debris were initially cut short because of the crime scene investigation that was launched at the apartment. Wren said the rekindled fire did some additional damage to the apartment building and delayed efforts to restore utility services.