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Jan 30, 2023
BLAZE FROM THE PAST- 8 1/2 Park Ave December 13, 1998
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By Asst. Chief Joseph Fusaro
December 29, 2022

Saturday December 12, 1998 was warmer than normal with temperatures in the upper forties. Westerly firefighters would be celebrating the Chrstman season at their annual Christmas party. At approximately 10:40 pm Box 1211 was transmitted by Westerly Dispatch after they received 911 calls reporting a possible garage and brush fire on Gravity Court off Newton Ave. Arriving firefighters found a small fire on the outside of a garage at the end of Gravity Court. The fire was extinguished quickly using the booster line from Engine 3. Westerly Fire Chief Joseph Misto turned the scene over to Westerly Police for further investigation of the cause. Little did the members of the fire department know this would be the start of a long night.

As Saturday turned into Sunday two youths on their way home noticed smoke coming from a vacant house at 8 ½ Park Ave. Upon further investigation flames were found piercing the second floor and roof. They immediately notified a neighbor to call 911. Westerly Dispatch transmitted Box 3132 at 1:08 am for 8 ½ Park Ave after receiving the call. Westerly firefighters were familiar with the address as they had responded to fire at this address on September 9, 1998. The fire in September had done severe damage to the building. As a result, an order for a defensive attack was ordered. No firefighters were allowed to enter and all operations would be conducted from the outside. Engine 3 set up in the driveway and was supplied by Engine 2 from a hydrant on Newton Ave. Engine 4 stopped at the hydrant on Newton Ave. Ladder 1 and Engine 1 were set up in the parking lot of the Grace Methodist Church. Firefighters utilized Ladder 1’s pre-piped waterway supplied by Engine 1 from a hydrant at Park and Spruce to attack the fire. Multiple hand lines were operated around the building. Due to the dangers of entering the building, firefighters battled flare ups throughout the early morning hours. Westerly Police and the Westerly Ambulance Corps assisted at the scene. With the house boarded up the fire was considered suspicious.

Rhode Island Deputy State Fire Marshals Mike DiMascolo and Jerry Leddy, assisted by the Westerly Police, determined the fire started in the upper part of the house and was incendiary in nature. No one was ever arrested for the fire and the building was razed by order of the Westerly Building Inspector.

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