PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A building owner and employee were charged Monday, after prosecutors alleged the sprinklers were cut in a Paterson, N.J. building where a fire burned for five days in February.
Mark Leonardis, 57, of Weehawken – the owner of the building at 90 George St. in Paterson, was charged with causing widespread damage. Employee Mario Lora, 66, of Passaic, was hit with the same charge, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutors alleged that Leonardis and Lora shut down the emergency sprinkler system in the block-long, three-story commercial building sometime before the fire broke out on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 5.
The fire burned for five days straight, as firefighters worked around the clock to put it out, prosecutors said. The fire forced schools to shut down and injured two firefighters.
By the end of the fifth day, the building had burned down.
An investigation later revealed that the emergency sprinkler system valve chain had been disabled, making it impossible to suppress the blaze, prosecutors said.
The building housed three businesses – one on each floor, prosecutors said. All remained displaced as of Monday.
Leonardis and Lora each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
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