A family of five was found dead following a massive fire at a multi-family home in a historic downtown Long Island neighborhood late Tuesday, county officials said.
Another five residents escaped the Second Street blaze in Riverhead, which erupted around 10:30 p.m., officials said. The three-story, wood-frame home was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department.
The bodies of the five family members were found on the third floor once the fire was extinguished, after a fire official said that the floor had collapsed. Their identities are being withheld pending positive identification, officials said, but said it was a mother, her son and daughter, and two nephews.
One firefighter suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to a hospital, officials said.
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The damage was so bad that firefighters couldn't even safely reach the back of the house to attack the flames from behind. It wasn't clear if the age of the home, which tax records say was built in 1907 by a lawyer from Brooklyn, contributed to the rapid spread of the flames.
The Riverhead town supervisor told News 4 the home was a legal multi-family dwelling but hadn't been inspected since 2018. The owner didn't respond to 10 attempts by the town. eight of those in person, to inspect the property in 2021 and 2021, the supervisor said. A summons was issued but garnered no response.
The owner of the home, who escaped the fire, refused to comment on Wednesday.
Any potential connection to the fire and the lack of inspection is being investigated, though it's not clear at this point if the two were related. It appeared that the home had no working smoke detectors or fire escapes; the start of the fire is still unclear.
Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives are investigating the cause of the fire, but police say the preliminary investigation suggests it was not criminal in nature. The probe is ongoing.
A local historian said the house at one time was featured on a postcard after it was built, and it went on to become the jewel of Riverhead's historic district, with a place on the National Register of Historic Places.