By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
October 2, 2021

It was a dank and dreary on Sunday October 13, 1985. At some time after 6:00 am smoke detectors began sounding in the Alba Inn at 31 Canal St. The manager of the rooming house assisted by another tenant began banging on doors to awaken other tenants while a call was placed to the Westerly Fire Department. Box 3111 for High St and Canal St was transmitted from the firehouse on Union St. at 6:21 am Access to the building from Canal St was a small alley between Toscano's Men's Shop and China Village Restaurant as well as a set of stairs on Railroad Ave and a driveway to the rear of the building from High St. Ladder 1 was first to arrive at the building and reported fire from two windows on the second floor. Ladder 1 positioned on the D side while next arriving Engine 1 laid two lines from a hydrant on High St near the YMCA building and positioned on the C side. Engine 2 responded and set up at a hydrant at Railroad Ave and Canal St and members stretched lines up the stairs and alley to attack the fire.

The seriousness of the fire required more assistance and Chief Robert Mackay requested the Pawcatuck Fire Department respond with a pumper and ladder truck. Upon their arrival Pawcatuck's pumper was directed to pump the hydrant Engine 1 had taken and their ladder truck was positioned at the C-D corner. The fire was able to gain headway and extended to the third floor and tower of the the building. Engine 1 supplied both of the ladder trucks as the provided the main punch to knockdown the fire. Additionally ground ladders were set up on the sides not accessible to the two ladder trucks. As the main body of fire was knocked down, hose lines were stretched into the building to complete extinguishment. A search was conducted to attempt to locate two unaccounted tenants. One was later located outside but one was unable to exit the building and his body was located in apartment 9. 20 people were left homeless and the building experienced heavy fire damage to the second and third floors and water damage to the first floor.

Investigators from the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal's office determined the cause to be accidental. The Medical examiner determined the victim succumbed to smoke inhalation. The building was demolished several months later after being declared a total loss. Two firefighters were also injured, one from Westerly and one from Pawcatuck. Both were treated and released.