St. Lawrence Turns His Back on the
Ramapo Fire Chiefs
October 26, 2009 At the beginning of this year (Jan. 14), the
Ramapo Fire Chief’s Association sent an urgent letter to Supervisor
St. Lawrence concerning unnecessary risks the volunteer firefighters
faced in Ramapo due to building policies and violations there. They
wrote, "These active Chiefs who supervise fire protection to the
town and all its villages have become increasingly concerned by the
conditions your firefighters are challenged with while trying to
respond to fires and other emergencies within the Town of Ramapo.
These conditions, in many cases are extremely serious and are
putting the lives of the residents, firefighters, and other
emergency workers in harms way. We are requesting a serious effort
by all the Towns and Villages to assist us in performing our life
saving services as efficiently as possible." The serious effort was
not to come.
Extremely dangerous and untenable situation
The five areas of concern all centered around overbuilding and
overcrowding and the lack of regard on the part of the Town for
zoning and fire-code enforcement. The Chiefs who signed the letter
are: Chief Ed Kelly (Hillburn), Chief Chris Kear (Hillcrest), Chief
Douglass Perry (Monsey), Chief Kevin Hartnett (Sloatsburg), Chief
Mike Johnson (Spring Valley), Chief John Dawson (Suffern), Chief
Scott Meier (Tallman), and Chief Chris Schaber (South Spring
Here, from the letter, are the five current threats to the
volunteers and the occupants of buildings in Ramapo:
Excessive parking on both sides of the street, particularly
narrow residential roadways.
All commercial and residential properties must
be designed, approved, and enforced so as to provide
sufficient off-street parking to meet the needs of each
project and the legal occupancies.
Variances to these
parking requirements should only be granted in the most
extreme and unusual circumstances. It appears that currently
they are being granted on a routine basis which is creating
these dangerous conditions.
The Fire Chiefs will be happy to take any Town or Village
official on a ride to observe these dangerous conditions as
they currently exist. A delay of minutes or even seconds can
result in a loss of life or property damage.
2. We are
strongly opposed to private roads and common driveways being
utilized for multiple building lots that do not provide
proper street frontage and access to fire equipment and
other emergency vehicles.
3. When a major fire occurs, it is imperative that the
firefighters be provided with adequate accessibility around
the buildings to rescue trapped occupants and fight the
fires. Adequate separations or firewalls must be
incorporated to prevent the spread of fire to adjacent
buildings and to give us room to position our fire
Variances for lot coverage, reduction of the front, side,
rear yard, or height can create dangerous and unacceptable
conditions. These variances permit much larger dwellings and
businesses to be constructed on smaller lots. Allowing
buildings to be constructed in close proximity to each other
restricts ladder usage as well as fire fighting and rescue
4. There is
currently an epidemic of serious building and fire code
violations along with illegal occupancies. These conditions
are rampant in many areas of the Town and Villages and are
placing residents and our Volunteer Firefighters in extreme
danger. Strict enforcement
and compliance of all codes must be made a priority.
water should also be
considered in the approval process for all large scale
The Fire Chief’s Association concludes in a final paragraph:
"The fire and
building codes were designed and implemented because of
deaths that have occurred throughout the country. By not
following these state and nationally recognized codes,
an extremely dangerous and untenable situation is being
allowed to exist and expand if these projects continue to be
approved, altered, and illegally occupied.
We, as Volunteer Fire Chief's are united in our concern for
the current conditions under which we are required to
operate as well as what lays ahead in the future. Please
take our joint request seriously."
Since January, the 6-for-1
downzoning in unincorporated Ramapo continues unabated with
six residences replacing single-family homes; the Ramapo
zoning board continues to provides variances in bundles,
sometimes scores for a single project; the Board of Health
has announced it will look into violations that should have
long ago been dealt with by town building inspectors; and
the threats to the volunteers increase.
Ten months after the receipt of this letter, Supervisor St.
Lawrence decided to plaster over the problems with a public
relations move timed for an election campaign boost. But
rather than address the specific requests of the
firefighters, he has decided to have the taxpayers incur
another $1 million in debt to pay for extending an Opticom
System that will allow firefighters to remotely time red
lights as they approach intersections. A good system, but
it's not one of the problems that the Chiefs said were
creating "extremely dangerous and untenable situations." It
appears there's no way that St. Lawrence will tamper with
his voting base. Not when he is looking to expand that base
despite the dangers to the firefighters, emergency workers,
and the occupants themselves.