Religious School Destroyed by Fire; Owner Tried Thawing Pipes With Torch

Police say a fire at a Jewish school started when a man tried to thaw some frozen pipes with a torch. And now the United Talmudic Academy has been destroyed.

Ken Rosato reports from Monsey with the story.

Chief Andrew Schlissel, Monsey Fire Dept.: "When we got here the building was fully involved in flames."

At 9:30 Wednesday morning, fire raged through this yeshiva building in the Rockland community of Monsey, gutting it.

Chief Andrew Schlissel: "It's an old building, and they have aluminum frame construction. And the flames just went up the wall, into the attic."

Fire officials say the owner of the United Talmudic Academy noticed a pipe was frozen in the basement. They say he used a propane torch to try and thaw it out.

Instead, a piece of wood caught fire, which spread through the main floor bathroom, to the top floor and into the attic. It took 50 firefighters from three departments to battle the fire.

Chief Andrew Schlissel: "All the pipes in the buildings and houses all over the county have been frozen. And people are trying any method they can to (thaw) and unfreeze the pipes, so they can have running water and heat. He had no bathroom facilities in this facility, and he was just trying any means to (thaw) it."

Fortunately only the owner was in the building at the time. He got out safely. Because the structure is about 100 years old, only the contents were insured, and officials say they don't have the money to rebuild.

The good news is there is another building on the property, so these 150 students of the yeshiva may continue their studies. But this building has been entirely gutted.