Westerly Fire Department
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BLAZE FROM THE PAST: THE MOHICAN MARKET
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By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
March 1, 2021

On Thursday March 22, 1956, Westerly would see the most destructive fire in the downtown area during the 1950’s. Situated near the corner of Broad St and Union St sat the Welch Building occupied by the Mohican Market. The Mohican Market served many in both Westerly and Pawcatuck. At about 5:18 am Westerly Police Officer Peter Comforti was patrolling the downtown area when he noticed smoke. While he investigated, he saw flames running the ceiling inside the Mohican Market. Officer Comforti transmitted the alarm from Box 1122 in Dixon Square. Unbeknownst to Officer Comforti, three bakers were inside the market working when the fire began. They made a harrowing escape via the rear door when the fire broke out cutting them off from the front entrance. Jules Serpa, Erik Erickson, and Fred McLaughlin, in a panic snapped the door knob off, forcing them to break out the window of the rear door to escape the smoke and flames.
Resident Fireman Ed Greene was the first on scene with Engine 3. He forced entry to the market and entered the store with a hose line supplied by the truck’s 300-gallon tank. Fireman Greene quickly attacked the fire and thought it under control when it “broke out in all directions.” A second alarm was struck bringing more firefighters and all the apparatus of the Westerly Fire Department at 5:25 am. A third alarm was sounded from Box 1122 at 6:40 am. By this time over one hundred firefighters were on scene being directed by Chief Pasetti and his Assistant Chiefs Andrew and Claudio Comolli. Firefighters ascended the aerial ladder of Westerly’s ladder truck to the roof to begin ventilation while others stretched large hand lines into the market. The heaviest fire was in the basement of the market. Additional hose lines were taken to the second and third floors to cut off the vertical extension. The fire also began to spread to the adjoining structure to the left housing the Kreb’s Town Shop. Firefighters were quickly able to halt this extension. The heavy smoke conditions required Chief Pasetti to constantly rotate his crews. Amazingly, no serious injuries were reported. Westerly Ambulance provided two ambulances at the scene for any emergencies that might arise. After an almost six-hour battle the fire was declared under control. Over 3500 feet of hose was used by Westerly firefighters. The last time this happened at one fire was the night of the Rhode Island Hotel Fire, April 28, 1928.
During the fire, Chiefs Edwin Barber of Watch Hill and Edwin Greene of Dunn’s Corners offered Chief Pasetti assistance. Chief John Donahue of the Pawcatuck Fire Department offered his department’s services to Chief Pasetti. Pawcatuck was asked to cover for Westerly. Members of the Fire Police and Westerly Police detoured traffic around the fire scene. Damage was estimated at over two hundred thousand dollars to the Mohican Market, and other businesses affected. Most of the fire and water damage was to the Mohican Market. Businesses on the upper floors of the Welch Building suffered smoke and water damage


Add a Comment Add a Comment 1 Comment(s)

Frank C Tate Jr March 02, 2021 at 8:43 PM
That was my first fie as a member of R I ones



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