A cluttered Long Beach home that's been the subject of neighbors' complaints will be razed in the next few days after a fire gutted the house early Thursday, Long Beach officials said.
Richard Roth was cooking corn at his East Bay Drive split ranch when he left the food unattended and flames went out of control about 12:20 a.m., according to officials from Long Beach and the Nassau County fire marshal's office.
"He said he was in the kitchen cooking corn, and he went upstairs to rest for a while," said First Assistant Chief Antonio Cuevas, of the Long Beach Fire Department. "We found the fire blowing out of every window and blowing out the front door."
Roth escaped the blaze and was taken as a precaution to Long Beach Medical Center. The Red Cross has given him a hotel voucher and a credit card, authorities said, and city social services workers will assist him.
Police were first called by a neighbor, who heard screaming in the kitchen and thought there was a fight, Cuevas said.
About 70 Long Beach firefighters, assisted by five other departments, put out the blaze about 1:30 a.m., but it rekindled in a false ceiling over the kitchen two hours later, Cuevas said. That was put out within half an hour, he said.
The fire spread quickly and burned hard because the house was crammed with debris from floor to ceiling, officials said.
A piano was chest high because of all the garbage under it, and there was more debris on top of the piano, Cuevas said. A refrigerator blocked the basement door, he said. There were piles of clothes and other belongings, he said.
Scott Kemins, Long Beach building commissioner, said the house will be demolished in a few days.
"It's structurally unsound," said Kemins, who was also at the fire. "There are holes in the floor. There are holes in the roof. All the roof rafters are burnt through. There's no saving the house."
Officials feared the fire would spread to adjoining homes, which are less than 10 feet apart on the street. Firefighters sprayed water on neighbors' homes, but the siding on one started melting from the fire's heat, officials said.
Roth had been living in the home with his mother, Marjorie, until about a year ago, when she moved into a local nursing home, the commissioner said. Public records show Roth is 62 and his mother is 93.
Kemins said city officials have been trying to improve living conditions for the family for at least five years and tried to get them to clean up the property. Officials said neighbors for years had complained about conditions at the home, where shopping carts littered the yard.
The place fell into further disrepair after Marjorie Roth moved out, Kemins said.
"Pretty much everything was destroyed," Kemins said. "But if he sees something and knows where something was and we can get it, we might assist him in trying to retrieve some personal possessions. Obviously, it's a terrible thing to lose things in a fire. . . . Luckily, he really wasn't injured and he's here to talk about it."