The home on Second Street where five people perished in a fire last November was demolished today.

The demolition took place on the eve of a scheduled Town Board public hearing on whether the charred remains of the historic three-story residence was an “unsafe structure” requiring demolition.

A demolition permit was issued by the Riverhead Building Department to the property owner of record last week, according to town officials.

The Nov. 16, 2021 claimed the lives of five family members who lived in the third-floor apartment at 46 East Second Street. Zonia Dinora Rivera, 41, her children, Carlos Cifredo Peñate Rivera, 24, and Andrea Isamar González, 16, and her nephews, Douglas Edgardo Rivera Aguirre, 24, Carlos Alberto Ramos Aguirre, 22 all died in the blaze.

The house on East Second Street engulfed in flames Nov. 16. 2021. Courtesy photo.
MORE COVERAGE: Five dead in late-night blaze that destroyed downtown home

All five were trapped in the third-floor apartment, which lacked a second means of egress. The stairs leading to the apartment had been destroyed by the fire, according to the Suffolk County Police Department arson squad investigation report. The county medical examiner determined that the fire victims died of smoke inhalation, according to Suffolk police.

MORE COVERAGE: Trapped by blaze, five people died in third-floor apartment that lacked second means of egress

The landlord, Carmela Cannella, who lived on the first floor and the tenants who occupied two apartments on the second floor escaped without injury, though they lost all of their personal possessions.

Carlos Peñate Rivera, with his mother Zonia and his sister Andrea on Oct. 8, when Andrea arrived in the U.S. All three were killed in a fast-moving fire Nov. 16, along with Rivera’s cousins, Douglas Edgardo Rivera Aguirre and Carlos Alberto Ramos Aguirre. Courtesy photo: Laura Rivera

Police determined that the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette or cigarettes in a receptacle located on the porch on the evening of Nov. 16. The blaze erupted at about 10:30 that night.

Records show Riverhead Town issued rental permits for the third-floor apartment for more than 20 years. The most recent rental permits issued to Cannella for the three apartments, issued in 2018, had expired on March 7, 2020. According to town records obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, the town sent Cannella renewal notice in February 2020, but she did not respond. Town code enforcement inspectors called Cannella once and visited the home three times to verify the rentals, according to the records, but never made contact. On the last visit on Oct. 7, 2021, the inspector spoke with Zonia Rivera, reporting that she told him she rented the the third-floor apartment.

“She’s been living there for 5 years,” the officer wrote. “Will issue summons.”

The multi-family home at 46 E. Second Street in Riverhead in January, the scene of a deadly Nov. 16 blaze that killed a family of five. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town served three criminal summonses on Cannella just three weeks before the fatal fire.

MORE COVERAGE: Riverhead commenced prosecution for expired rental permits three weeks before fatal fire

Notices of claims were served on the town — as well as Suffolk County — by the proposed administrator of the estates of the Rivera family on Feb. 14. No lawsuit has yet been filed, according to online court records.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.