Investigators sift through ashes of fatal Prudence Island fire


PRUDENCE ISLAND — Portsmouth police and fire investigators along with officers from the state Fire Marshal's office were back on Prudence Island Thursday sifting through the ashes of an 0151 Concord Avenue, Prudence Island cottage that was destroyed by a Tuesday morning fire.

The west side house burned to the groundearly last Tuesday. Later, human remains were found inside and taken back to the state Medical Examiner's office. Officials there have said it may be awhile before they can make positive identification or determine a cause of death.

Still not accounted for is the young man whom sources say had rented the house — Shannon Cubellis.

Prudence Island Fire Chief Bob Marshall said his crew never had a chance to save the old house.

"It was gone before we even knew about it."

They had the engines, including the 'new' one shipped out from Bristol months ago, and manpower they needed, "but as usual the challenge was water."

Keeping water pressure up for the hoses was difficult and all water had to be trucked in from two big supply tanks on the island.

Other complications included live electrical wires, a propane tank and reports that there was live ammunition inside the house. The ammunition could be heard popping off early on "but was never really a problem," Chief Marshall said, nor was that propane tank.

Asked whether it was also emotionally difficult dealing turned out to be a fatal fire on an island where everyone knows everyone, the chief replied, "Always."

The fire apparently had a good head start in the house which is located in the lightly populated (especially at this time of year) west side of the island.

In fact, the first people to see the fire may not even have been on Prudence Island.

Islander Ed Giarrusso said he got a call at around 7:30 a.m. from a friend on Jamestown who asked what all the smoke was. Mr. Giarrusso called the fire department to report a possible fire. At the same time, another islander saw the smoke and drove to the fire station — word from both arrived at about the same time.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.