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Hempstead, Lindenhurst, Patchogue villages lack fire code enforcement, audit finds

Three Long Island villages were among a sampling of New York municipalities noted as lacking in fire code enforcement in an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office.

Patchogue, Lindenhurst and Hempstead villages were among the 10-municipality sample in the audit conducted in 2013. The audit report was released Wednesday.

Auditors found gaps in the review of fire safety plans or evacuation procedures for public buildings such as adult care facilities, hospitals, hotels, preschools, libraries and shopping malls.

The state requires each municipality charged with enforcing the New York fire prevention and building code to keep records of its enforcement activities, including fire safety and evacuation plans, and conduct periodic reviews and fire drills.

In Patchogue, the fire marshal told auditors he did not review evacuation plans or perform the reviews for the required number of fire drills "because his time is better spent on other aspects of fire safety," according to DiNapoli's report.

Similar issues were noted in the other villages, but only Patchogue challenged the comptroller's right to audit those issues. Patchogue officials, in a written response included in the audit, accepted DiNapoli's recommendations for corrective action, but added that they "find no support in the statutes or case law for the comptroller to conduct such a 'fire safety' audit."

In Hempstead, the fire inspector did not review or approve fire plans because he thought Nassau County did, according to the report, but county officials said Nassau does not perform those reviews. In Lindenhurst, the report found the fire marshal didn't review fire or evacuation plans and the village had no list of buildings required to have the plans or drills.

Auditors visited 96 buildings around the state and found 73 of them -- 76 percent -- did not have a fire safety plan that met the minimum state code requirements. Of those, 44 did not have an adequate evacuation plan on file and 54 did not conduct the required number of drills.

In addition to the three Long Island villages, the audit covered the cities of Ithaca, North Tonawanda, Plattsburgh, Poughkeepsie, Rome, Saratoga Springs and White Plains.

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