BLAZE FROM THE PAST-WESTERLY GRAIN-SEPTEMBER 14, 1975
 
By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
September 8, 2022
 

Saturday September 13, 1975 was a warm day in Westerly with temperatures in the 70’s. Daytime temps gave way to a very cool evening and overnight period with temperatures in the mid 40’s. At approximately 1:50 am on Sunday September 14, Westerly Police officers Thomas Gulluscio and Joseph Zanfini were patrolling the area when Officer Gulluscio smelled smoke. The officers quickly discovered smoke emanating from the front of the Westerly Grain and Supply Co. on Friendship St. Box 3124, Railroad Ave at West St. was sounded bringing Westerly firefighters to the scene. In the brief time it took the first pumper, Engine 3, to arrive flames broke through the roof and out the front entrance. Engine 1 arrived laying 2 750-foot 2 ½ inch hose lines from the hydrant near Agway. Ladder 1 arrived and their saw was put to work to cut open the metal sides of the building to create openings to apply the water. Engine 2 stopped at the hydrant at Agway and pumped the 2 supply lines to Engines 1 and 3. Members used booster lines, 1 ½ inch and 2 ½ inch hose lines to subdue the fire. Chief Robert Mackay was hesitant to send firefighters in because a portion of the roof in front of the building collapsed. The fire was declared under control 35 minutes after the department’s arrival. The Westerly Ambulance Corps responded with an ambulance and their rescue truck which provided additional lighting. No injuries were reported by the 60 members of the Westerly Fire Department that responded to this incident. The Westerly Red Cross responded with Chapter Chairman Downing Simmons and Cliff Rushlow serving coffee and donuts to hungry firefighters.

This fire presented many different hazards to firefighters based on the occupancy type. Westerly Grain carried an assortment of what today would be considered hazardous materials. Paint, fertilizers, and propane posed the most danger to firemen. Other contents included seed, garden equipment, dairy equipment and wood shavings. Fortunately the propane was stored outside the building. Westerly firemen remained on scene until 4:00 am carefully overhauling the scene. Chief Mackay summoned the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal to investigate the cause of the fire alongside Westerly Police detectives.