Turn To Tara investigation uncovers alleged illegal summer camp in Town of Ramapo
There are safety concerns in Rockland County after the discovery of what's being described by some fire officials as an illegal summer camp.
This time, officials say young children were in harm's way.
The Turn to Tara investigation is raising serious concerns as to how the apparently dangerous operation was allowed to continue.
Deflated bouncy castles and water slides fill an empty warehouse along College Road in the Town of Ramapo alongside exposed wiring on filthy floors.
"It's a disaster. Just a recipe for someone to get hurt," says Tallman Firefighter Michael Rosenblum.
He says one of his co-workers captured pictures of the empty warehouse after they responded to a fire alarm call at the former Lifeplex Complex two weeks ago.
"It was unbelievable. I never thought - when I went there last time it, was a tennis court," Rosenblum recalls.
But Rosenblum says the even bigger shock came when county health officials showed up this Tuesday to shut the place down.
Multiple sources tell News 12 there were nearly 250 children inside what is believed to have been an illegal summer camp and amusement center.
News 12 went to check out the property on Friday and the front doors were open, so a News 12 crew walked inside.
There were holes in the wall and exposed wiring all over the place.
A few minutes later, a manager arrived on scene and called the police.
News 12 asked the property manager about the safety of children. The officers allowed the crew to ask one more question before politely asking them to leave.
The name of the center is noticeably absent from the outside of the building, but documents obtained by the Turn to Tara team show the property has a history of code violations that dating back at least five months.
An appearance ticket issued by the town to Horton Gateway LLC just in March includes a laundry list of violations ranging from the failure to submit a fire safety compliance certificate to the improper handling of electrical equipment.
The discovery hit a nerve for firefighters who are still reeling from several life-threatening fires already this year at properties with similar histories of safety infractions.
In fact, a supermarket in the same shopping plaza as the alleged illegal summer camp, Motty's, went up in flames back in February, nearly killing seven firefighters.
The site has a history of code violations that date back decades and shares the same landlord as the old Lifeplex complex.
"Unfortunately, this is part of what we're fighting this each and every day," Rosenblum says.
News 12 learned that late Friday afternoon, Rockland County issued the property owners 27 violations, with seven of them considered serious. They have two weeks to address the violations.
News 12 is also waiting to hear back from Ramapo town officials, who are responsible for fire and building code inspection.