Firefighters and investigators at the scene of a house fire...

Firefighters and investigators at the scene of a house fire on Devon Road in Hempstead Monday that left one person dead. Credit: Lou Minutoli

An 81-year-old man was killed after fire swept through a home converted into an illegal rental in Hempstead early Monday morning, Nassau County fire and village officials said.

The fire at the home on Devon Road, just south of Hempstead Turnpike, was reported in a 911 call at 5:43 a.m. The Nassau County Fire Marshal's Office said firefighters from Hempstead Fire Department arrived four minutes later to find the home in flames.

Nassau Chief Fire Marshal Michael F. Uttaro said the cause of the fire is under investigation by Nassau County Police Arson / Bomb Squad investigators, Village of Hempstead investigators and the fire marshal's office. He said the fire appears to have been accidental and there were no working smoke detectors at the residence.

Police said nine people were in the home at the time of the fire and eight were safely evacuated. The man who died was not identified but police said he was a resident of the home.

Uttaro said, in all, 16 people were displaced due to the fire. Police said the Red Cross was helping to place them in temporary housing. 

Calling it "a terrible day," Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr., said Monday the home was listed a single-family residence and said it had been converted into an illegal rental with an absentee landlord. He said village officials had been in contact with the owner, saying: "We do know where the homeowner resides, he has been contacted."

Hobbs said investigators will determine what, if any, criminal charges or other legal action the homeowner will face.

He declined to identify the owner, but said the basement alone had two bedrooms in it.

"In our village records we have this as a single family home," Hobbs said.

. "A rental registration permit is required and issued for people to rent out their homes … This owner never filed the paperwork."

Hobbs said a cause had not been officially determined, but fire officials were looking at the possibility that it was sparked by a space heater

Uttaro said about 40 firefighters from Hempstead, West Hempstead, Uniondale and Rockville Centre battled the blaze under the command of Hempstead Chief James Joyce and said the fire was brought under control in about 30 minutes. "They were there quick," Uttaro said of the response. "But it appears there weren't working smoke detectors at the site — and that never helps the situation."

"We remind our residents that first and foremost make sure they have working smoke detectors in their homes," Hobbs said. "And, to change the batteries …

"And, stay away from using space heaters," he said. "They can be dangerous."

With John Asbury

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