UPDATE: Town Says Code Enforcement Action Saved Lives

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UPDATE 5 p.m. Thursday:

Southampton Town has issued a press release regarding 18 Greenfield Road and the code enforcement action that was taken against it. According to the release, the residence is legally a single family residence, but over the summer was found to have at least 20 people living there, with seven occupying the illegal basement apartment alone.

After a search warrant was executed, the town placed a temporary restraining order restricting the occupancy of the premises on the property, which presumably is why there were only two people living in the house at the time.

Referring to Wednesday night’s blaze as a “massive fire and explosion,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said in the release: “The efforts of the Town’s Code Enforcement Division to shut down this house and return it to its legal one family use prevented a massive tragedy. If people had been still occupying the basement at the time of the fire, there is no doubt we would be talking about mass casualties.”

Councilman Chris Nuzzi, co-chair of the Quality of Life Taskforce, also was quoted in the release, describing the process of obtaining the order as follows: “When Code Enforcement executed a search warrant at the location in August, there were approximately 20 people living in the single family house. At least 7 of the inhabitants were living in an illegally converted basement. Due to Code Enforcement’s investigative efforts, the Town was able to go to Supreme Court and win an injunction and temporary restraining order returning the premises to its legal and permitted use as a single family residence and prohibiting all but one family, living on the second floor from staying at the premises.”

According to the release, the families who were displaced by the temporary restraining order were put in contact with a Suffolk County Department of Social Services case worker to find them housing and transportation services.

UPDATE 2 p.m. Thursday:

Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin said there is still no determination on the cause of the fire at 18 Greenfield Road, although it doesn’t appear to be suspicious.

Mr. Rankin said the blaze rendered the home “totally destroyed.”

“It can’t be saved,” he said. “There is structural damage all around and every room was touched by either the fire itself or has severe smoke and water damage.”

He also confirmed that in addition to dealing with the flames, firefighters had to contend with a backyard littered with several small barbecue propane tanks which had valves exploding off their tops from the heat. There was also a 200-gallon liquid propane tank that was compromised and had a valve burst, but Mr. Rankin was unable to say how much, if any, propane was actually in the tank.

Two Southampton Fire Department members were treated for minor injuries after leaving the scene around 11 p.m. last night, and one occupant of the house had such serious burns and smoke inhalation that he had to be transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital Burn Unit after being taken initially to Southampton Hospital. Mr. Rankin could not say how many other occupants were in the house, but he thinks there were “two or three people total.”

In October, the property was discussed by the Southampton Town Board as having possible illegal activity and being out of code compliance, namely for illegal rental units.

Mr. Rankin confirmed that the Fire Marshal’s office has been in touch with Southampton Town Code Enforcement to “see exactly how things, the floor plan and any additional units, were laid out.” A search warrant was executed by code enforcement earlier this year, according to Mr. Rankin, but a FOIL request has not yet been fulfilled to determine what kind of violation was being investigated.

UPDATE 7:28 p.m. Wednesday:

Two male occupants of the house at 18 Greenfield Road have been hospitalized, and a pet could not be saved from the burning house.

Firefighters from Southampton, Hampton Bays and North Sea appear to have the fire under control. At one point, while battling the fire, a 200-gallon liquid propane tank exploded as a result of the flames. There are no reports of firefighters being injured.

Bridgehampton Fire Department is on standby at Southampton’s station.

Original Story:

Firefighters from several companies are battling a major structure fire on Greenfield Road in Shinnecock Hills.

The fire was reported sometime around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Southampton, Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays are among the fire companies that have been called to the scene.

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