Fire rapidly consumes 38 condo units

John Howell and Kelcy Dolan
Posted 3/12/15

A fast-moving fire quickly consumed one of the three Westgate Condominium buildings on Quaker Lane yesterday morning. Firefighters were thwarted in their efforts to fight the blaze by a lack of water …

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Fire rapidly consumes 38 condo units


A fast-moving fire quickly consumed one of the three Westgate Condominium buildings on Quaker Lane yesterday morning. Firefighters were thwarted in their efforts to fight the blaze by a lack of water and water pressure.

It was a surreal, movie-like scene against a backdrop of snow and a bright blue sky. The three-story building was engulfed in flames curling from the windows, and plumes of black smoke rose hundreds of feet. Residents of the complex of 111 condos, joined by spectators, stood in silence as the fire crackled and sections of the roofing collapsed.

According to a Warwick police officer, firefighters had strung a hose to a hydrant, but someone evidently fleeing the scene drove over the fully charged line, causing it to damage the hydrant. Visible in breaks in the billowing smoke was a single ladder rising above the burning roof, issuing a narrow stream of water.

“We had problems with [water] pressure,” Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong said in an afternoon call from the scene. He said the loss of the one hydrant required personnel to string hoses from other hydrants, and at one point to call for the assistance of tanker trucks from Coventry.

The chief said the initial box alarm call was received at about 10:25 a.m. He said it was quickly followed by multiple calls.

When firefighters arrived, he said, they found the fire on the third floor. They entered the building, but then were forced to back out as the fire intensified.

Armstrong said the fire completely consumed the third floor and that the building was “completely destroyed.” He said the building contained 38 condos, which he estimated housed about 100 people. Nobody was hurt in the fire.

As of about 3:30 p.m., the fire was still smoldering and Armstrong was calling in demolition equipment so firefighters could reach hot spots.

At the height of the blaze, all of the city’s firefighting apparatus were at the scene and equipment from neighboring municipalities was covering the city, Armstrong said.

The chief had not heard the report of Doris Cuddy, a second-floor resident of the building, who said there had been a roof collapse about 10 days ago. Cuddy thought the incident could be linked to the fire.

Cuddy, who lives with her son Thomas, said she lost a lot of crucial medications in the fire. She feared for her health because she can’t afford to replace them.

“I was just finishing getting ready [dressed] when Thomas started screaming that I had to get out. I opened my door to a wall of black smoke. It was awful. I was choking, I couldn’t breathe, that’s how thick the smoke was,” she said. “Everything is gone, and I am just so depressed…I could die without my medications. I am almost 70 years old and I have to start over like this, I have to put up with stuff like this.

“Within five minutes, the smoke was everywhere and the building was up in flames just as quick. All my clothes, all my possessions – I have six children, photos of family vacations, their childhoods, all my memories, all of it is gone,” she added.

Contacted in the afternoon, Elizabeth McDonald, senior director of emergency services for the American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter, said, “It’s too soon to know exactly what we are going to do, but I can promise that everyone here will have a place to go tonight with food and clothing. We are going to do everything we can to make sure they all get the help they need.

“All the families aren’t accounted for yet, and before we take the next step we need to focus on making sure everyone got out, then we figure out what we can do with them all tonight,” she continued.

Despite the devastation, there were some people who considered themselves lucky. Michele Pariseault is one of them.

“I was having a panic attack,” Pariseault said when she saw the smoke on the horizon and suspected it was coming from Westgate. Pariseault bought a third-floor apartment about three months ago. Fortunately, her unit is not in the building that burned.

According to city land records, the first of the buildings was erected in 1976. The units are assessed for tax purposes at $63,000 to $113,200.

Pariseault said when she bought her unit prices were in the range of $100,000.


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • bendover

    Many, many questions to be answered here...Building inspector, fire marshall, the owners who did the conversion, code inspections and compliance issues...A lot of EXPLAINING to do...and this fire was a mile from the station fire? Firewalls, fire doors, sprinklers...? God was looking out for a whole lot of people, residents and firefighters. This had the potential to be a major disaster....

    Thursday, March 12, 2015 Report this

  • StaciaClueless

    Let's just thank god stacia petri didn't win the election. The entire city would burn to the ground.

    Friday, March 13, 2015 Report this