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Riverhead Town may soon demolish Second Street home destroyed by fire if property owner does not act

The burned out shell of a three-story, 115-year-old house on Second Street may be coming down soon. 

The Riverhead Town Board has scheduled a public hearing on whether it should require the owner of the building to demolish it or not. If the property owner does not demolish the structure, the town may do so, and charge the cost to the building’s owner.

The Town Board plans to schedule the hearing for Oct. 18 at its 6 p.m. meeting.

The building went up in flames on the night of Nov. 12, 2021, killing five family members who lived together on the third floor.

Five other residents managed to escape, including the building’s owner, Carmela Cannella, who lived on the first floor.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said at last week’s Town Board work session that “apparently the house was not insured.”

Reached by phone Monday, Ms. Cannella declined to comment, and directed calls to her attorney, Edward Burke Jr. of Sag Harbor. Mr. Burke was unavailable.

An Aug. 29 notice from the town’s code enforcement department placed on the fence around the property declared the building to be an “unsafe structure” and a “structure unfit for human occupancy.”

“They were trying to take it down and it was just recently declared unsafe, so we’re moving forward with the resolution” to demolish the building, Ms. Aguiar said. “If the owner does not take it down, we will take it down and put it on the tax bill.”

The supervisor said the town had recently gotten word that the owner of the property claimed to be in contract with someone to taking the structure down. She said the town should still move forward with the hearing in case that doesn’t happen.

An investigation by Suffolk County Police determined the fire was likely sparked from a cigarette.