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After Fatal Fire, 58 Charges for Homeowners

Thu, 09/01/2022 - 10:55
An outdoor kitchen that lacked a building permit has been designated by Southampton Town officials as the “area of origin” of the Aug. 3 fire in Noyac that killed two sisters whose family was renting the house.
Christine Sampson

The couple who own the Noyac rental house where two young women died in a fire on Aug. 3 together face 58 building code violations in Southampton Town Justice Court, including charges that “no fewer than three” smoke alarms weren’t working, a town official has confirmed.

Pamela and Peter Miller are being represented by the attorney Edward Burke Jr., who did not reply to requests for comment this week. They were arraigned on Friday and are due back in court on Sept. 30.

While the fire marshal’s full report on the blaze at 3 Spring Lane is not yet finished, Ryan Murphy, Southampton’s public safety and emergency management administrator, said yesterday that the fire likely began in an outdoor kitchen, which had been constructed without the necessary building permits. The “area of origin” and the “cause” of the fire are separate pieces of information, he made clear; the likely cause has not yet been released. “So far, we’ve leaned toward a ‘where’ but not a ‘why.’ “

“It’s certainly bad, and it resulted in an absolute tragedy,” Mr. Murphy added. “I don’t want to minimize it, but it is also not entirely uncommon to have in excess of 10 or a dozen violations on a property.”

The Star previously reported that the house lacked a rental permit; four of the Millers’ 58 charges (29 apiece) are for failure to apply for that permit and for renting the property without it.

Obtaining a rental permit typically involves filing detailed floor plans with the Building Department and either allowing town officials to inspect the property or providing “written certification from a licensed architect or licensed engineer that states that the rental property fully complies with all of the provisions of the code.” The Millers are also charged with “transient rental,” for violating the town’s rule that rental terms must be at least 14 days.

Sean Cambridge, an attorney representing Southampton Town, said by email this week that the charges also include “occupying a premise in a manner contrary to the certificate of occupancy, failure to maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, failure to abate electrical hazards, and multiple charges relating to construction without permits, including but not limited to installation of an outdoor kitchen with connected utilities.”

Other charges concern pool gates and a 12-by-12-foot gazebo with fire pit that lacked a building permit.

Jillian Wiener, 21, and Lindsay Wiener, 19, of Potomac, Md., had been sleeping in an upstairs bedroom when the fire broke out. Both died. Their brother, Zachary, 23, leapt from a second-floor window and survived; their parents, Lewis and Alisa Wiener, were also able to escape. They were treated at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

The 911 call came in at around 3:30 a.m. Shortly after, firefighters from North Sea, Southampton, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, and Sag Harbor arrived to find the house engulfed in flames.

According to their obituary, Jillian Wiener was an adventurous young woman who taught yoga, played ice hockey, and loved camping. A rising senior at the University of Michigan, she was studying ocean conservation and environmental policy. Her sister, Lindsay, was a rising sophomore at Tulane University, where she had planned to major in marketing and Jewish studies. Friends remembered her as a lighthearted and endearing person, a skilled baker and an enthusiastic camper.

“Together, the girls were playful, always laughing at their own antics, always loving their family and friends, and their Berners, Thor and Millie,” the family wrote. “These quintessential young women represented the best qualities any parent would hope for in their children. Filled with goodness, generosity, and love, their futures were bright as they navigated their paths with grace and hard work, taking on the world each in their own way. They will be profoundly missed by loving relatives and friends.”

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