Westerly Fire Department
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BLAZE FROM THE PAST: THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH FIRE
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By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
May 1, 2021

On Wednesday May 15, 1974, the Westerly Fire Department received a street box, 3131, for Narragansett Ave at Newton Ave at 11:20 am. Almost as soon as the horn stopped sounding for the street box, a master box, 612, began sounding for the Immaculate Conception Church. Arriving Westerly firefighters were greeted by Father Euloge LaPlante. Father LaPlante had just escaped the fire by exiting via second floor window. Fire was not visible, but smoke was showing from open windows and the eaves. Firemen began stretching lines to the interior of the church, but heavy smoke thwarted their entry, and they were forced to don self-contained breathing apparatus to reach the seat of the fire. Meanwhile, firefighters were raising ground ladders to the second-floor windows and via the aerial ladder which was parked in the lower parking lot. Other fire personnel were directed into the lower level of the church below the fire to cover furnishings and religious items with tarps to protect them from water. The fire caused considerable damage to the priests’ living quarters and smoke damage throughout the rest of the upper level of the church however the sanctuary was not damaged by fire. The large area and amount of smoke necessitated a call to Pawcatuck for additional smoke ejectors to help clear the building of smoke. Services were postponed for a week while the church was thoroughly cleaned of soot and repairs could be made to the priests’ quarters. Chief Robert F. Mackay reported no cause had been determined but the fire did originate in one of the priest’s rooms. The displaced priests would reside at the Marist Retreat Center in Watch Hill.


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