The fire began just after noon on Tuesday at the corner of Mountainview and Irene drives, spreading from one townhouse to the other through a shared roof, reported the Times Herald Record.
Approximately 100 firefighters from seven local fire departments responded to the scene, battling flames that were tearing through the roof by the time they arrived on scene.
Monroe Fire Chief John Scherne said that an initial attempt to fight the fire from the inside of the homes had to be curtailed.
“We got pushed back by the heat, heavy heat,” said Scherne.
Because there are no fire hydrants in the area, water had to be brought in via tanker trucks so that firefighters could douse the flames with massive quantities of water.
Scherne said that it took just 15 minutes to extinguish the majority of the blaze, although firefighters were on scene for nearly four hours, with one treated for heat exhaustion.
One day after the fire, Orange County fire coordinator Vini Tankasali announced the official determination that the fire had been unintentionally caused by partially lit cigarette butts left on a wooden deck.
The Times Herald Record reported that the flames traveled up the wall adjacent to the deck and into the roof of one of the homes before making its way to the second home.
Five people were safely evacuated from the homes by the Kiryas Joel Fire Department, the first to arrive on the scene.
Both houses, which were built in 2011, sustained smoke and water damage, with heavy damage to their roofs and second stories. According to property records, one of the two homes houses a synagogue, Congregation Ohr Hachaim. VIN News video shows two sifrei Torah being removed safely from the house as flames and smoke spewed from the structure’s roof.
While Tankasali ruled that the fire was accidental, Facebook user John Proffit expressed his doubts, commenting “They are just clearing for a larger multi family home/place of worship. it’s all under control.”