No fire alarms or sprinklers in Floral Park building destroyed by fire, report finds
The Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office completed its investigation into an April fire that destroyed six businesses in the Village of Floral Park.
According to the final incident report obtained by Team 12 Investigates, investigators could not find a cause of the fire due to the severity of the damage. They also could not find any fire alarm or sprinkler systems in the building.
However, it is perfectly legal for that Jericho Turnpike building to be without that type of protection. The building was constructed in 1960 and therefore exempt from existing fire code regulations.
"Back then, there weren't fire codes that require fire alarms or sprinkler systems," said Fire Marshal Chief Michael Uttaro. "If their occupancies basically stay the same, there wouldn't be any trigger to require these systems being installed."
Chief Uttaro said there are hundreds of older buildings across Nassau County that are grandfathered in and do not need to comply with current building codes.
Those building owners can decide whether they want to spend the money to install fire alarm or sprinkler systems, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, or forego them entirely. Fire officials say the choice could have devastating consequences.
"If sprinklers were present, while you would have had some smoke and some damage, the sprinklers would have activated, suppressed the fire enough that the fire department could have gotten in there and probably completely extinguish that fire and we wouldn't be talking about this in the situation that we have today," said Chief Uttaro.
The building owner did not immediately return our calls for comment. If he wants to rebuild, Chief Uttaro said the owner will need to install at least a fire alarm and smoke detection system. Sprinklers may also be required depending on what is constructed.
Team 12 Investigates previously obtained fire inspection reports for the 266 Jericho Turnpike building from the last decade. They show the building has had dozens of safety violations year after year.
MORE: Newly obtained records: Floral Park building repeatedly cited for safety violations leading up to fire
The building was routinely cited for expired fire extinguishers, obstructed electrical panels and faulty exit signs.
In 2016, village building inspectors found 11 violations, including sinkholes and roof leaks. A follow-up inspection later that year uncovered unresolved violations, such as missing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Fire inspectors noted that some corrections were still not done and that they were "unable to get in contact" with the building owner.
The commercial building was due for another inspection by the village in 2023 before it was gutted by a massive fire on April 17. Hot spots burned for more than a day and floors collapsed, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters. Three firefighters were injured on the scene.
"Due to the severity of fire damage, and inability to examine the scene safely during the investigation, the investigations team was unable to rule out all possible sources of ignition and causes of the fire," said Joseph Battaglia, of the Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office.