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THIS MONTH (JANUARY) IN WFD HISTORY
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By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
January 4, 2021

January 20, 1869- The Committee on Fire Engines purchased a steam powered fire engine , The Rhode Island Steam Fire Engine No. 1 along with a new hand pumper to be called the N.F. Dixon No. 2 from the Jeffers Company of Pawtucket RI.

January 5, 1875- The barn of Benjamin Babcock located in Stillmanville was destroyed by fire. This is in Pawcatuck.

January 10, 1901-Vose's Ice house caught fire but was extinguished by on of the hose carts located with in the Westerly Fire District.

January 18, 1901-Ciminia Block at 26 Canal St was badly damaged by fire. It took an hour and a half to control.

January 5, 1904-Fire was discovered in the Champlin Block on Main St at 4:30 am. Firemen had to deal with the elements as well as the fire as 8 inches of snow had fallen and the temperature was 18 below zero. Minor extension was halted in the Langworthy Building just to the north of the Champlin Block.

January 14, 1913-Box 46 on the Pawcatuck side was sounded at 2:30 am for a fire which destroyed the Star Theatre on West Broad St. All three Westerly companies responded to assist the P. S. Barbers in extinguishing the fire. The fire was confined to the theatre which was completely gutted.

January 2, 1925-The Bliven Opera House on Main St was discovered in flames and the alarm was sounded at 12:30am from Box 52 at the corner of Main and Union St. All Westerly companies and the P.S. Barbers responded. The growing nature of the fire required Chief George Egger to summon assistance from Watch Hill, Stonington, Mystic, and New London CT. Flames extended to three tenement houses and by daybreak the opera house and 2 tenements were completely destroyed with the third tenement partly gutted with the glow seen as far west as New London CT and as far east as Wakefield, RI.

January 10, 1936-Box 33-0500-Mutual Aid was provided to Hope Valley for a fire in the Saybrook Manufacturing Mill Fire.

January 5, 1939-The 1938 Seagrave aerial ladder truck was placed in service with Alert Hook & Ladder Co. It had a 65 foot steel aerial ladder.

January 11, 1939-Box 16-0000-Mutual Aid was provided to Watch Hill for a fire in the Columbia House.

January 30, 1942-Box 56-1000-Welsh Block, fire in the Ran Boch Hat Shop, other stores damaged by smoke. An elderly woman was removed to safety.

January 13, 1944-Box 39-1200- A large brush fire Quarry Hill (Granite St) was extinguished. Several acres involved.

January 30, 1944-Box 534-1915-United Theater Canal St, A fire was extinguished by the sprinkler doing its job. As the saying goes "the show must go on" only at prices that were greatly reduced. The fire caused the evacuation of some 675 movie goers.

January 10, 1946-Box 52-1030-Olean Motor Sales, heavy damage rear of building and a truck. 4 firefighters were overcome by smoke.

January 10, 1947-Box 73-2202 -A double alarm was sounded from Box 73 shortly after 10:00pm for a fire at 102 Canal St. which before it was put out caused damage of $15,000.00 and at which three firemen were overcome, caused four persons to flee the fire in their night attire and left one fireman in the hospital with cut tendons and lacerations. The fire started in the third-floor apartment occupied by J. Robert Hughes, 70 years old, who had just filled the oil burning stove and discovered when he started to light it that it was leaking and caught fire. The fire soon spread to the walls and worked its way through the partitions to the roof and gave the Department a stubborn 3 ½ hour fight before extinguished.

January 12, 1947-Box 41-0230-5 School St. caused by an explosion of two burner oil heater which had been placed in a bedroom for heat. The twin babies, 1 month old lost their lives in this fire and 5 other children were rescued. 2 of the children rescued were treated for burns and smoke inhalation at Westerly Hospital.

January 28,1948-Box 41-10:20am-136 Main St- Fire gutted the third floor of the house. Four children, the oldest five years old, were removed to safety during the fire. The fire started in the third-floor bedroom of the Magrey apartment on the south side of the house when an oil stove (portable) flared up. The flames spread into the blind attic and into the roof. This fire was fought in 10-degree temperatures and the water poured on the flames rolled down the stairs and freezing made the floors and stairs treacherous to work on.

January 9,1951-Box 47-1356-87 Beach St Foster Farm fire guts 2nd floor of garage. The fire was centered in large storage room in the center of the building where odds and ends had been stored. This part of the building was gutted. A small apartment in the south end of the structure was untouched by fire but extensively damaged by smoke and water. It was believed the fire was caused by defective wiring.

January 14, 1952-Box 25-1658 -58 Spruce St. Gaffney Dolan Funeral home. The fire, believed to have started in an air duct between a wall and a chimney at the first floor level, had crept upwards to the second floor and underneath the roof when firemen arrived. Because the fire at one point was eating between the chimney and the exterior wall, firemen worked nearly an hour to bring the flames under control.

January 25, 1955-Box 3123-1345-96 High St-a spectacular mid-afternoon fire which shot black billowing smoke and flames over the business district, destroying an old frame barn at 96 High St. and caused extensive damage to one on adjoining property. The barn at 96 High St. was owned by Mrs. Clara Taylor and Mrs. Louise Tetlow and was damaged beyond repair. The adjoining barn was owned by R. Michael Sammataro and the second floor was used by the Pucci Electric Co. Retail Shop on High St. to store merchandise, such as furniture and electrical appliances. The fire was caused when William Ruddick, visiting his brother-in-law Edward Smalle, raked up brush and rubbish in the rear of the Sammataro barn and started to burn it. Over 2000 ft. of hose was used.

January 8, 1963-Box 1122-1915-The fire, the worst in 20 years in the business district, swept the top floors of the Barber Memorial building and the Porter-Loveland building on High St. for an estimated damage of $500,000. The fire was believed to have started in the Barber Memorial building and was a mass of flames when the alarm sounded. After breaking out of the Barber Memorial building the flames spread over the top of a fire wall and underneath the roof of the Porter-Loveland building. Pawcatuck was called on for aid and sent a pumper and aerial ladder and Watch Hill later sent a pumper and aerial ladder and Dunn’s Corners stood by in the Westerly Station and Mystic in the Pawcatuck Station. More than 150 firemen from Westerly, Pawcatuck and Watch Hill departments fought the blaze. Westerly Police Reserves were called out to help the Fire Police handle crowds. One fireman Robert Browning of the Alert Hook and Ladder Co. was overcome at the fire. At the height of the fire seven pumpers and 3 aerial ladders were in use fighting the blaze. The old 36-year old Fox pumper was pressed into service and pumped for 6 hours at this fire. Almost all the hose in the Westerly department was used at the fire.

January 20, 1964-Box 1125-1450-Sherman Lumber Co fire damaged a 2-story shed-The flames originating in the auto shop, swept up an outer wall and between a ceiling and the second floor. A quantity of lumber stored on the second floor was damaged.

January 20, 1965-Box 1241-0410-52 State St.. Early detection allowed the occupants to escape as heavy smoke and intensive heat cause heavy damage to the home and furnishings. Firemen tried to reach the center of the fire through the outside cellar door but could not and had to use a smoke ejector and ran fog boosters through the kitchen down the inside stairway. Oxygen breathing equipment had to be used by the men.

1/8/1971-Box 4524-2205-Potter Hill Rd- A fire which destroyed a 200-year old remodeled Cape Cod farmhouse on the Potter Hill Road called the former Fred Savage home but owned by Joseph and Doreen Brancato. When firemen arrived, flames were coming through the roof and heat had blown the doors out. No one was home when the fire was discovered, and the cause of the fire was undetermined, and the house was completely gutted, and furniture destroyed. The fire was fought in bone chilling temperatures and water froze quickly.

1/24/1971-Boxes 2353 and 2354-2030-Misquamicut Hills, Petrie house-No one was home when the fire broke out and although conditions caused by water freezing at the fire no firemen were injured. The roof and much of the second story of the two-floor house were destroyed and the first floor was damaged by water and charred wood carried down by the water. The Seagrave pumper of Cyclone Engine Co. #2 hooked to a hydrant on a dead end and relayed water to the RI Ones Seagrave pumper to supply water to the fire. This fire was seen for miles as the house was located on the highest hill around. The Petrie family were in church when the fire broke out.

January 31, 1976-Box 4115-2000-16 West St, Parilla home- Fire started on third floor consuming that floor and the roof. The fie was discovered by an off-duty Westerly police officer who sounded the alarm and evacuated the residents. Unfortunately, Westerly would experience its second line of duty death when First Assistant Chief John "Jake" Keena suffered a heart attack while battling flames. Despite the efforts of firemen and Westerly Ambulance personnel he was pronounced dead at Westerly Hospital. Fire was accidental in nature.

January 10,1977-Box 4116-0955-Structure fire 50 Pierce St. 2 children were rescued & revived enroute to hospital by Westerly firefighters and Westerly Ambulance personnel. 4 members were recognized by the Westerly Town Council for their efforts.

January 24, 1980-Box 18-0255-Bradford, Main St, 3 story apartment house- Westerly Ladder 1 responded along with Ashaway and Dunn's Corners FDs and Westerly Ambulance.

January 20,1986-Box 17-0130-Bradford, Bradford School, structure fire-Westerly Ladder 1 and Engine 2 responded along with Ashaway, Alton, Dunn's Corners, Hope Valley, and Misquamicut FDs. Misquamicut Engine 204 laid 4 inch hose from the school to the river where Engine 2 drafted.

January 2, 1999-Box 3123-1914-8 Joshua St, Structure fire. Fire was in house under renovation.

January 7, 2002-Box 324-0231-The Elms 22 Elm St.- fire in laundry room. The smoky fire required temporary evacuation of some residents. No injuries.


January 16, 2004-Box 3141-0803-47 Summer St. Structure fire 2 ½ story wood frame fire on 1st and 2nd floor; PFD 1 engine. Heavy damage to the second floor and roof. Firefighters dealt with well below zero temperatures and snow cover.

January 16, 2004-Box 4414-0930-16 Boy Scout Dr. Chimney fire with extension; Engine 2, PFD 1 engine and ladder, AFD 1 engine. Firefighters dealt with well below zero temperatures and snow cover.

January 16/2004-Box 4424-2147-12 Frontage Rd Structure Fire garage extended to home via common attic; PFD 1 engine. The fire was discovered by Westerly Police answering a burglar alarm. Firefighters dealt with well below zero temperatures and snow cover.

January 1, 2007-Box 4133-1330-50 Pearl St., Structure fire, fire in garage extended to breeze way

January 16, 2007-Box -0555-3 Hollis St., Structure fire, fire in basement extended to 1st floor & roof, total loss.

January 13, 2009-Box 3212-2205-Cherenzia & Associates, 25 Ledward Ave vehicle fire extended to metal garage building

January 16, 2009-Box 15-1334-Mutual Aid Misquamicut 460 Atlantic Ave, structure fire, 1 engine, WHFD Ladder & engine

January 13,2014-Box 2312-0912-142 Winnapaug Rd, 20’ x 15’ garage with 300 gallon propane tank exposed

January 13, 2014-Box 16-1525-Mutual Aid Dunn’s Corners, 25 Governor Ave, 3 story home with garage underneath, car fire in garage extended up to 1st floor, DCFD, MFD, WAC

January 4, 2015-Box 1212-0733-25 Chestnut St, Chestnut Cottage at the Elms, venting 1000lbs propane tank with odor entering the Alzheimer’s building, patients evacuated to the main Elms building; leak controlled with fog line until gas company rep shut down leak. All occupants returned within 2 hours.

January 23, 2015-Box 16-0337-Mutual Aid Dunn’s Corners, 58 Fieldstone Way, 2 story single family E1-2, 31-34 19 men Add’l Mutual aid from AFD and NSFD 1 tanker each

January 21, 2016-Box 4113-1502-31 Canal St, 1 story commercial with auto repair garage, fire originated in repair shop extended to common attic. Fire stopped half way through attic, Class A foam used to cut off extension and extinguish fire. Same building burned in 1978.

January 1, 2019-Tone-0022- MVA car into Pawcatuck River off Coggswell St. Occupant and samaritan rescued by WFD Marine 30 in fast moving river in heavy rain. Car has still not been found.

January 2, 2020-Box 422-1741-Babcock Village 122 Cross St. Unit D-102, Multi-unit housing complex, 1 room and contents. Extensive smoke through the second and third floors. 2nd alarm struck by Car 34 Asst. Chief Trebisacci.


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