Structure fire
By Ex-Chief Nicholas Luparella/Photo & Pictures by Riverhead Local & EX CAPT. Paul Sparrow
December 12, 2019

ire destroyed the interior of a West Main Street storefront early this morning.

Riverhead Fire Department volunteers made a quick stop of the fire at 51 W. Main Street, a shop in the two-story brick building on the south side of the street, between the Peconic Crossing apartments and the community garden.

The alarm came in at 7:06 this morning. The interior of the ground-floor shop was heavily burned but firefighters were able to contain the fire to the one store. There are four storefronts in the building, which abuts the new five-story apartment building.

The Riverhead Fire Marshal’s office and the town’s code enforcement division are investigating, Chief Fire Marshal Craig Zitek said in an interview at the scene.
“It looks like there are some code issues and fire prevention issues here,” Zitek said. He would not elaborate, pending the results of the investigation.

Flanders Fire Department responded to a mutual aid call and Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps stood by at the scene.

Riverhead Town Police closed the West Main Street block to traffic and shut down traffic on northbound Peconic Avenue.
The fire department’s quick response and the speed with which they brought the fire under control and contained it averted a potential catastrophe, according to one official at the scene.

Riverhead Fire Department responded with two engines, two ladder trucks and fire police, Chief Tim Corwin said. About 45 firefighters answered the call, he said.

“It was definitely a very good stop for sure,” Corwin said.

The store was unoccupied at the time of the fire.
“Our biggest issue was access into the building,” the fire chief said. “Commercial buildings are supposed to have a Knox box outside that only we can open, containing all the keys. There wasn’t one there,” he said.
“It was an interesting set-up,” Corwin said. “If the fire was in the basement it would have been really bad. There was a 12-inch wide clearance on the stairway and a heavy fire load downstairs,” the chief said.