Electrical issues likely sparked the fatal Spring Valley fire, authorities say

“The fatal Lake Street inferno in which two children, ages 4 and 13, and three adults died likely was set off by electrical issues inside the two-family house, authorities said.

A preliminary assessment found the the fire was accidental and caused by an electrical malfunction, Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco said. The Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s forensic fire unit has been working with the Spring Valley police since the blaze was reported at 4:03 a.m. on Saturday.

The remains of a fatal fire at a two -family building on Lake Street in Spring Valley  March 6, 2023. Five people died in the fire. Peter Carr/ The Journal News

Preliminary results: Electrical cause and accidental

Falco said the preliminary results have found the house at 118 Lake St. had smoke detectors. He said investigators have not made final conclusions.

“Our joint investigation with the Spring Valley Police Department into the fire at 118 S. Lake Street, Spring Valley is still ongoing, but preliminarily has been able to confirm that smoke detectors were present in the structure,” Falco said. “The exact cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed, but was very likely accidental and related to electrical issues within the structure.” 

Fatal Spring Valley fire: Inspector review other properties, violations found at next-door houses

Spring Valley: 5 dead, including 2 minors, in Lakes Street house fire

Response: Red Cross brings free fire alarms, emotional support, to neighborhood

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the investigators believe a faulty electrical outlet set off the fire in the wood-framed house, and that the public will get a full picture once investigators have completed their work. He said his understanding is the people hospitalized have not yet been interviewed.

“This is why investigations need to be thorough and complete so we know exactly what the circumstances are and who should be held accountable,” Day said Tuesday.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh and his office spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comments on whether the office would ask a grand jury to review the circumstances and ownership. Walsh’s office has overseen indictments on cases involving paperwork issues and the two deaths in Evergreen Court Home for Adults fire in 2021.

Five people died in the blaze that engulfed the house during Saturday’s early morning hours. The dead include a 4-year-old and a 13-year-old.

Three people were found dead from the flames and smoke on the second floor and two on the first, officials said. One man jumped from the top story. Five others were treated at hospitals and one firefighter was treated at the scene for a minor injury. The tenants were from Guatemala.

First responders were confronted by a house engulfed in flames, blocking firefighters from entering. Spring Valley police said, “Numerous people were able to escape, but despite the rescue efforts of the first responders, three adults and two children tragically passed away due to the fire.”

Investigators believe the fire started on the first floor and caused the second floor to cave in. The remains of 118 Lake St. were demolished for safety reasons, authorities said. The five fatalities were the first since the March 22, 2021, fire at the Evergreen Court Home for Adults on nearby Lafayette Street. The Evergreen Court blaze brought out hundreds of firefighters who fought the flames and evacuated 112 adult home residents and staff. Firefighter Second Lt. Jared Lloyd, 35, died when part of the building collapsed on him. Resident Oliver Hueston, 79, died.

Fatal fire puts owner’s properties under the spotlight

The Lake Street fire led to inspections of several other nearby houses owned by Jacob Jeremias. He owns up to 12 rental properties in the village, according to the Spring Valley tax roll for 2022. His holdings include properties on Lake Street, two on Ohio Avenue, and single properties on Cole Avenue, Sherwood Avenue, and Jay Street. The Spring Valley Board of Trustees has allowed Jeremias and other property owners to subdivide their properties to build additional profit-making housing units.

Tenants living in a Jeremias-owned house at 120 Lake St. said they pay $2,550 a month in rent.

The fatal fire on Saturday kicked off plans to inspect several other Jeremias properties: 120 and 122 Lake St. Violations were found by inspectors for the Rockland Building and Codes Office.

After Saturday’s fire, Buildings and Codes inspectors went to Jeremias’s property at 116 Lake St. and found multiple violations, including illegal conversions of adding rooms, officials said.

On Monday, the inspectors found multiple violations at Jeremias properties at 120 and 122 Lake St. Those included single-family occupancy; electrical issues; missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Officials said violation notices are still being compiled. Jeremias would have 30 days to make repairs after being notified before enforcement action — and potential fines — start.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.