NEW CITY, NY (WCBS 880) – Rockland County fire chiefs are fed up. They’re waging an all-out war against illegally subdivided homes.

WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams with a firefighter who nearly died

Officials have formed a task force to fight slumlords who split up single-family homes.

“It’s a widespread and serious problem,” Gordon Wren Jr., the director of emergency services for Rockland, told the Journal News. “No area of the county is immune.”

Last month, West Haverstraw Fire Captain Ken Patterson nearly died in a home with deadbolted doors and Sheetrock-covered windows.

“Visibility inside was zero,” Patterson told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “I got a little disoriented inside the room, trying to find my way around and my [oxygen] cylinder depleted.”

He yelled mayday. Firefighter Andy Colzar found him with a thermal imaging camera.

“He says, ‘Kenny, Kenny. It’s Andy. I got you.’ That’s the last part that I remember,” says Patterson. “If he did not have the proper tools, like the thermal imaging camera, he said he would never have found me.”

The owner of the illegal boarding house was fined just $5,000.

Patterson says, “I’m hoping that the fire inspectors and the towns and the task force really pushes this.”

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