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Condominium that burned had multiple violations; many residents lost everything

Grandview Palace resident, Vernon Poole, takes temporary refuge at the Sullivan County Community College center operated by the American Red Cross.
Photo by Liz Borda, American Red Cross

By Fritz Mayer
April 18, 2012

As many as 100 residents of Grandview Palace in Loch Sheldrake were made homeless when a blaze broke out on April 14 and raced through the aging campus. According to Michael De Vulpillieres, a spokesman for the Red Cross, about 80 of those people took temporary shelter at the Paul Gerry Field house at Sullivan County Community College.

It’s estimated that up to 300 units out of a total of 396 were totally destroyed. Because of the speed of the blaze, many residents lost all of their possessions as well as their apartments. The main building in the complex was burned to the ground, but several other buildings survived. However, it is not clear at this point when, or if, any units will be livable in the wake of the blaze, which led to the closing of Route 52, and was responded to by more than 40 firefighting companies.

There were no fatalities; four firefighters were treated for minor injuries.

The complex had been sited for numerous safety and code violations in the past year, and the Town of Fallsburg sought to condemn the buildings. That matter was put to rest in March when the town reached a settlement with the building management.

Fallsburg supervisor Steven Vegliante issued a statement saying that the measures taken by the town over recent months had been effective at increasing safety. He wrote, “Due to the efforts of our code enforcement officer, Mollie Messenger, and her staff, sprinkler systems were operational, doors and alarms functioned and a fire watch worked exactly as designed, evacuating the building and saving the lives of all residents on the property.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and according to Richard Martinkovic, Sullivan County Commissioner of Public Safety, the cause is not considered to be suspicious.

Vegliante wrote, “The Grandview is, at this point, under the jurisdiction of the Fallsburg Police Department (FPD) as they begin the painstaking and precise process of fire investigation. This process will be performed by members of the FPD along with members of the Sullivan County, Orange County and New York State Fire Investigation teams.

Simultaneously, the town will be bringing structural engineers to the site to examine the buildings still standing to determine when we may allow residents to enter with escorts and remove personal belongings.”