Firefighters from 13 Rockland County area fire departments fought a blaze in the Raymond Castle Apartment complex at 500 E. Funston Street in Spring Valley Wednesday.
No injuries were reported and the cause of the blaze is unknown at this time. The American Red Cross arrived to help at least 35 people displaced by the fire that directly affected 15 apartments.
Altes Durosier, a resident of the complex, said everyone evacuated.
"I have a two-year-old son so I need to get diapers and other things from the apartment but no one is allowed in," he said. "Half of the apartment (residents) will get to go back in in a few hours and the other half will have to wait longer until the smoke is gone. I have a kid I don't know (what I'm going to do for the the next few hours). I was at work when this happened."
The fire was reported around 10:35 a.m. at the complex between Fairview Ave and John St. The fire started in an occupied apartment of the two-story brick apartment complex. Soon after 1 p.m., it had been extinguished. There was still a considerable amount of smoke lingering from the fire and parts of the roof were being removed. Most of the damaged apartments appeared to be on the upper level.
A perimeter area had been set up to keep spectators at a safe distance.
Fire officials reported several firefighters suffered heat exhaustion and one fell inside the building but they were treated at the scene. An elderly woman from a nearby building complained of chest pains and was taken to the hospital. Members of a local organization, Misaskim, which responds to crisis situations, brought jugs of water for the firefighters, who also had bottled water and cold cloths available.
Between 100 and 125 firefighters were at the scene. Spring Valley got the call at 10:38 a.m. Initially, Hillcrest, Monsey, Nanuet and Tallman were brought in.
"In this kind of heat, we have to rotate firefighters, much more frequently," said Gordon Wren, Rockland County's fire coordinator. "That's one reason we needed all the extra manpower.
"We had them waiting at the command center and then rotated them in. Then we tried to bring more people to the command center."
After setting up a command center at the International Food Mart, firefighters from Nyack, New City, Tappan, Orangeburg and Stony Point were called in. All had firefighters working on the building except Tappan, which stood by at the command center in case there were any other calls in Spring Valley.
At one point, the Spring Valley, New City, Suffern, Tappan, Orangeburg, Hillcrest, Nanuet, Pearl River, Congers, Stony Point, Nyack, Tallaman and Monsey fire departments all responded.
"Our volunteers did a great job in cutting off the fire," Wren said. "When they first showed up, they had to decide to try and manage the fire or go through the apartments and search for people. So they went looking for anyone inside, and thankfully the other departments showed up to help get things under control."
One of the Tappan firefighters said he saw smoke from as far away as Bardonia.
A Red Cross reception center was established at Spring Valley Village Hall to help residents and assess their needs. The Red Cross initially reported 37 residents being assisted, but expected many more with an estimated 60 units in the building.
Editor's Note: Adam Littman and Kim Tran contributed to this report.