A single-alarm fire diverted traffic and drew a crowd of onlookers to Sandy Lane late last Thursday evening, as Warwick firefighters battled a house fire that broke out at a long-vacant property. Nobody was injured in the fire, according to city fire marshal Michael Matteson.
“We're trying to put all our facts together,” Matteson said on Friday, who reported the cause of the fire remains under active investigation. “We’re going through witness statements; we’re making sure weather wasn't a factor.”
Matteson said that the house, which is listed as 700 Sandy Lane on its exterior but shows up in city records as 686 Sandy Lane, had no utilities – electricity, water gas or other combustible materials – hooked up to the house, and that it had been vacant for a number of years. He said there had been a fire back in 2014 at the house after a group of homeless individuals lit a fire in its fireplace in an attempt to keep warm.
Although Matteson did not want to speculate as to what caused the fire while it is being investigated, a resident who lives on nearby Brendard Avenue, Scott Waterson, said that the vacant property was a popular destination for people to congregate and sometimes parties were held in the smaller house that sits – also vacant – behind the larger house on the same property.
According to records from the city assessor’s office, the larger 1,662-square-foot house (the one that caught fire) and its smaller 660-square-foot house behind it were built in 1915. The property was assessed at a value of $235,000 in 2017 and was last purchased for $0 in April 2011 by Pheasant Tea & Coffee LLC. Prior to that, it was purchased for $300,000 by Mary Z. Petrucci on Jan. 5, 2005. Attempts to contact both Pheasant Tea and Coffee LLC and Petrucci were unsuccessful.
Matteson said the fire department is trying to get in touch with the current owner of the property and that he had notified the city building department to tag the property as unsafe, and it has since been boarded up following the most recent fire.