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Fire Marshal: Westgate Condo Blaze Likely Started in Living Room, Cause Unknown

State Police asked motorists to avoid Rte. 2 while firefighters finish putting out a fire at a Westgate Condominiums.
The cause of a fire in Building C at Westgate Condominiums that destroyed the building March 11 could not be determined, according to a report from the RI Fire Marshal’s office.

Warwick, RI – While the cause of the fire that destroyed building C at Westgate Condominiums at 754 Quaker Lane March 11 could not be determined, the State Fire Marshal’s report says it likely started in a living room in the middle of the third floor.

The report states there’s no indication that the fire was started intentionally.

The blaze, which left many homeless, affected about 61 condo owners, destroyed 26 vehicles and caused the loss of $10,000,000 in property damage from the destruction of the condos and $5,000,000 in property damage from the loss of the condominium structure, according to the report.

The condo’s fire alarm system complied with fire code, and there were no records of outstanding deficiencies or violations at the Warwick Building Department, according to a report from Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian’s office March 15.

David J. Curran, a fire investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s office, wrote he arrived on the scene of the fire at 11 a.m. that day, according to the report’s narrative.

“It was apparent that this fire was being tactically suppressed using a defensive mode, as I was informed the Warwick Fire Department had difficulties with a reliable established water supply,” Curran wrote.

As firefighters fought the blaze, photos on social media and and reports from the scene described a number of area fire departments assisting Warwick firefighters struggling to find enough water to fight the fire. Officials shut down Route 2 for part of the afternoon to allow water trucks into the area.

‘It was apparent that this fire was being tactically suppressed using a defensive mode, as I was informed the Warwick Fire Department had difficulties with a reliable established water supply,’              David J. Curran, fire investigator

Avedisian and Warwick Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong announced March 12 that they’re investigating the cause of low water pressure at area hydrants during the fire, the function of which Kent County Water Authority is contracted to provide.

Curran reported that the WFD incident commander received permission from the condo’s insurance company to bring in heavy equipment to fight the fire, and called in a Johnston contractor to assist, “…due to the size of the structure and the sheer magnitude of this fire, along with all the hidden pockets of fire that were actively burning with the interior of the structure.”

Curran left the scene at 7:30 p.m., and when he returned at 8 a.m. the next day, the building had been levelled so the fire could be completely extinguished.

Although the cause of the fire could not be found without the building to inspect, Curran was able to determine where the fire started, in the middle of the third floor of building C, on the west side, using witnesses, social media reports and photographs from the scene.

There, in the living room of a unit where contractors were fixing a water leak caused by an ice dam, the ceiling had been opened and a space heater had been placed in an area enclosed in plastic, was where the fire began, according to the report.

In addition to the space heater, which Curran could not determine whether it was running, the fire may also have been caused by water creating an electrical failure in the unit’s receptacles or switches. The fire may also have been caused by the floor lamp or television.

After the fire started, it spread from the unit, through the hole that contractors had cut into the ceiling, into an attic on the south side, according to the report.

To read the complete narrative from the report, view the embedded document below:

Westgate Condo Fire Marshal Report

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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