Westerly Fire Department
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By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
February 1, 2021

On Tuesday February 18, 1969 Westerly was settling back to normal after a mid-February snowstorm. Snow accumulations totaled several inches. At 2:30 pm Charles Coon, an employee of Collings Storage discovered a fire in rear of the main warehouse. He attempted to extinguish the fire discharging two fire extinguishers on the growing blaze with no affect. As the fire grew it activated the sprinkler system tripping the fire alarm alerting the Westerly Fire Department via box 3152. As the signal sounded from the horn atop the Westerly Fire Station, Engine 3 with resident Fireman Ed Greene and Chief Pasetti was out the door. Engine 3 arrived to find the 80 by 100-foot main warehouse spewing thick black smoke. Chief Pasetti immediately recognizing the magnitude of the fire ordered a second alarm sounded from box 3211, Tower St and Ledward Ave summoning all apparatus and additional firemen to the scene.

As more men and equipment arrived Chief Pasetti directed them to lay additional 2 ½ inch hose lines to the large overhead doors. Thick, black smoke poured from the structure necessitating firemen operating nozzles in the opening to don air packs. Since the number of packs were limited, only the nozzlemen wore these. With flames overwhelming the sprinkler system and hose lines and fire now venting through the roof Chief Pasetti pressed the ladder pipe of Ladder 1 into service along with the deluge set from Engine 1. The need for more water became evident and the chief sent word for the Ahrens Fox to respond. Connecting to a hydrant on Tower, the Fox pumper supplied the additional water necessary to operate the heavy streams of Ladder 1 and Engine 1. This would be the last fire the Ahrens Fox pumper would see service at a fire. From this time forward it had two duties, first as parade piece and secondly as a caisson.

The fire was declared under control around 5:30 pm but the destruction to the warehouse was plainly evident. Besides the roof burning and dropping to the interior of the building, several walls also partial collapsed making final extinguishment difficult. Firefighters would return to douse hots spots overnight. Westerly Fire Department records show about 3500 feet of 2 ½ inch hose as well as over 500 feet of 1 ½ inch hose. Neighborhood residents expressed relief that the fire was kept to the building of origin and provided firemen with hot coffee and sandwiches for the efforts. Owner Thomas Collings estimated the loss to the building and contents at over $300,000. Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office were called to investigate the cause of the fire which Chief Pasetti felt was not suspicious in nature.


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ed liguori February 01, 2021 at 4:51 PM
Very nice article.



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