A fire Wednesday that sent two men to the hospital—one with severe burns—could have resulted in multiple deaths if not for code enforcement action undertaken just a few months ago, according to Southampton Town officials.
Officials also lauded Southampton Fire Department 2nd Assistant Chief Chris Brenner for risking his own safety when he arrived at the scene and put out the flames on the burning man’s clothes and body.
Firefighters were called to 18 Greenfield Road in Shinnecock Hills at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday and Brenner arrived to find that flames were coming out of every window, though two men who were inside the house made it out on their own.
According to Councilman Chris Nuzzi, co-chair of the town’s Quality of Life Task Force, back in August code enforcement officials executed a search warrant there and found that approximately 20 people were living in the single-family house.
“At least 7 of the inhabitants were living in an illegally converted basement,” Nuzzi says. “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.”
“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” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst says. “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.”
“The basement of this house was illegally converted and failed to provide any alternative means of egress for any occupant,” notes Councilwoman Christine Scalera, co-chair of the Town’s Quality of Life Task Force.
Councilwoman Bridget Fleming says that the town worked with Suffolk County Department of Social Services to ensure that anyone displaced by the restraining order found emergency housing
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the volunteer fire fighters and ambulance workers who responded to this incident,” Councilman James Malone adds.