Karen Oliver Legg was awakened by her husband Jim late Tuesday night to a red glow in their bedroom. She was in for a shock when she looked out the window.
“It was a fireball,” Legg said of the house across the street on the corner of Royal Street and Bellman Avenue in Conimicut.
Wednesday morning Legg was outside her home to tell the story. Behind her was 19 Royal Avenue that had been reduced to charred rubble. All that remained standing were two chimneys and a wall.
Legg, who has lived on Royal Avenue since 2004, knows her neighbors and immediately rushed outside to see what she might do. He husband moved their car to make room for fire apparatus. She soon discovered that all three people living in the duplex escaped, although one of them suffered burns to his lower extremities and was taken to Rhode Island Hospital. She also found that she and her husband wouldn’t be permitted to return to their home immediately, as firefighters feared that two burning pine trees next to the burning house might carry the fire to her house.
According to Assistant Chief Edward Hannon, firefighters found the house fully engulfed when they arrived and, after determining everyone was out of the house, set up “ladder streams” on both sides of the fire in a “defensive mode” to contain the blaze. He said firefighters also found a man, later identified as one of the tenants, Michael Turgeon, rolling on the ground in an effort to extinguish his burning clothes.
Legg said a neighbor across from her played a role in Turgeon’s rescue, pulling him off the burning porch. There was speculation on the part of firefighters that he was attempting to save pet birds and cats that were lost to the flames.
As of Wednesday morning, police were investigating and had not interviewed Michael, who remained in the hospital.
As she learned from Diana Turgeon, Michael’s mother, Michael was the first to learn of the fire. After alerting her, she raced to bang on the door of her ex-husband, Michael Spooner. Both got out safely.
Legg said it had been a difficult week for Diana and Mike. During the storm Friday a tree fell on the house, yanking the electrical wiring from the house. Warwick Fire Marshal Michael Matteson ruled out the wiring as a source of the fire.
Hannon said city and state fire marshals were investigating the blaze. As a precaution, the standing wall and two chimneys were leveled Wednesday and fencing was erected around the property. Matteson said insurance adjusters would be meeting at the property Thursday. He said he and a police arson detective “are actively working on this.”
Once certain that the fire would not spread to nearby houses, Legg and her husband were allowed to return. Diana Turgeon and Michael Spooner spent the night with them.
Hannon said the Red Cross provided hotel vouchers to the couple living on the east side of the burning house. Legg said the couple recently bought the house. The heat of the blaze scorched the building, melting the vinyl siding.
Hannon said Battalion Chief James Maxfield, who was first on the scene, served as incident commander. He was assisted by Battalion Chief Michael Clark. Hannon was at the scene as well as Chief James McLaughlin.