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News

Elusive Hours-Long Fire Severely Damages Rockland Shopping Center, Bergen Companies Assist

Rockland Indoor Shooting Education Center, Pearl River / INSET: Pearl River Fire Chief Jim Morrison
Rockland Indoor Shooting Education Center, Pearl River / INSET: Pearl River Fire Chief Jim Morrison Photo Credit: COURTESY: Mark Lieb (Rockland Video Productions, NY)

UPDATE: Six firefighters were hospitalized with minor injuries Sunday in a stubborn hours-long blaze that broke out in a basement gun range, spread through a Rockland County shopping center and continued burning late into the night, authorities said.

Firefighters from Mahwah, Montvale, Oradell and River Vale were among more than 100 from Rockland, Westchester and Bergen counties either at the Pearl River scene or in coverage through the afternoon and into the evening.

The sneaky blaze began shortly before noon in the long-gun range at the Rockland Indoor Shooting Education Center -- commonly known as "The Rise" -- beneath the Dollar General store and other businesses in the North Middletown Road shopping center, Pearl River Fire Chief Jim Morrison said.

The range was occupied at the time, Morrison told Rockland Video Productions.

The shopping center was evacuated and area roads were closed as flames spread into a "void space" between the ceiling of the gun range and the floor of the stores above, travelling "all the way across the whole length of the building," the chief said.

It continued to burn beneath Dollar General and the Dunkin Donuts next door past nightfall, causing problems for firefighters who couldn't get to it, he said.

"The way the building was constructed, we're not able to get to the where the seat of the fire is," Morrison explained shortly before 5:30 p.m. "Every time we open a space, there's another space."

SEE: Pearl River Fire (Rockland Video Productions)

The chief requested Westchester's Technical Rescue Team to use jackhammers to open the floors.

He didn't say which departments the injured firefighters belong to. At least two of them were taken to Montefiore Nyack Hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning, Morrison said.

EMS set up a tent at the scene to evaluate other firefighters.

Mutual aid responders either at the scene or in coverage included firefighters from Hillcrest, Monsey, Nanuet, New City, Nyack, Orangeburg, Pearl River, Piermont, Sparkill, S. Spring Valley, Suffern, Tallman, Tappan, Thiells, West Haverstraw and West Nyack.

The Rockland County Sheriff's Arson Unit and BCI were assisting in investigating the cause of the fire, Orangetown Police Capt. James Brown said.  

The Rockland County hazardous materials and technical rescue squads also responded, along with Pearl River Ambulance, South Orangetown Ambulance, South Orangetown Rehab Unit, William P. Faist Ambulance, Spring Hill Ambulance, Congers Ambulance and Rockland Mobile Care, Brown said.

The Orangetown Building Department and Orangetown and Rockland highway departments also assisted, the captain said.

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