The owner of a Westhampton home that caught fire on July 30, injuring two renters, has been cited by the Southampton Town fire marshal’s office for multiple violations, including having an insufficient number of smoke detectors and failure to board up the damaged structure.
Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin said this week that the fire, which caused significant damage to the inside of the single-story home, as well structural damage to part of its exterior, was likely caused by a bed that was pushed up against an electrical outlet.
He also said it appears that the owner of the Lincoln Street home, Miguel Garzon of Dix Hills, had been renting the home to at least 11 people on the night of the fire, suggesting that the landlord could face additional fines and summonses in the future.
Two men were seriously injured in the blaze, one suffering a “large gash” on his right arm after he tried to put out the fire with a garden hose and another who suffered from smoke inhalation, Mr. Rankin said. Both men were treated at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.
Mr. Garzon could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Rankin noted that had there been additional smoke detectors in the home, firefighters might have been able to respond sooner. The home had one smoke detector, though town code requires that it have at least six—one in each of the four bedrooms, the basement, which had been illegally converted to a sleeping space, and the common living space, he said. There was no smoke detector in the rear bedroom where the fire originated, according to the fire marshals, who found 10 beds in the home.
A Southampton Town Police detective aided in the investigation until the fire marshals ruled that the blaze was not criminal in nature.
Mr. Rankin said Mr. Garzon would likely face additional summonses, including having an insufficient number of carbon monoxide detectors, illegally converting the basement to a bedroom and renting without a rental permit. The summonses are punishable by a maximum fine of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third and subsequent offenses or imprisonment for up to 15 days, or both, according to the Southampton Town code.
David Betts, the chief investigator for the Southampton Town Code Enforcement, said his office has no records of fining or citing Mr. Garzon in the past.
Billy Dalton, the third assistant chief for the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, arrived at the home shortly before 10 p.m. on July 30 and determined that there were people still inside. He was able to open the door and help two individuals out while Chief John “Chip” Bancroft began sizing up the scene so he could direct his trucks and firefighters. The department doused the flames in a matter of minutes, though they spent a few hours making sure they would not reignite.
Roger Taylor, who lives in a neighboring home, said he reported the fire when he heard shattering glass and shouting, and saw the flames. He said he went out with his flashlight and tried to discourage the home’s residents from reentering the structure to retrieve their possessions, but they did not speak English.
“They kept very much to themselves,” Mr. Taylor said of his neighbors.
As of last Thursday, belongings and garbage, including dresser drawers, stuffed animals, a jewelry box and clothes, were still strewn across the lawn of the property. The windows of the charred home were shattered, revealing overturned furniture, and ripped up drywall and insulation. The burning smell still lingered.
“They’re all bad,” Mr. Rankin said of the fires he investigates. “This one here—it had the potential to be a lot worse.”
He added that it is up to the insurance company to determine whether the home will be torn down.