Fire ran up the walls and into the roof

Firefighters from seven towns responded to Saturday's fire

By Josh Bickford
Posted 12/6/21

Crews from Barrington, East Providence, Seekonk, Warren, Bristol, Swansea and Providence joined forces to attack a fire in a large historic home on Alfred Drown Road on Saturday …

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Fire ran up the walls and into the roof

Firefighters from seven towns responded to Saturday's fire

Posted

Crews from Barrington, East Providence, Seekonk, Warren, Bristol, Swansea and Providence joined forces to attack a fire in a large historic home on Alfred Drown Road on Saturday afternoon. 

Captain Jason Fanion, the Shift Commander for the Barrington Fire Department, said firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after 3 p.m. and located a fire in the home’s basement. He also said neighbors had reported that there might still be people inside the large home, which sits at the bend of Alfred Drown Road.

“The priority went from fire suppression to search and rescue until the owner arrived on the scene about 15 minutes into the incident and confirmed everyone was out of the home except for pets,” Capt. Fanion reported during a followup interview.

The home’s size — approximately 4,600 square feet — and layout — multiple additions built onto it over the years — presented firefighters with some challenges, Capt. Fanion said. 

“The most challenging was the ‘balloon frame’ construction which is a nightmare for firefighters because it requires significant manpower to open up, locate and extinguish active fire,” he said, adding that balloon frame construction allows fire to move quickly throughout the house in open spaces.

Capt. Fanion said the fire was “seated deep in the basement” and had run up the walls and into the roof. He said it was very difficult for firefighters to get ahead of the blaze. 

“While firefighters were on the second and third floors searching for occupants they were reporting that they had fire coming up through the floorboards, stairwells, and ceilings on all three floors of the home,” he said. 

Firefighters worked all over the home — some cut holes in the roof of the house, while others knocked out windows. Smoke billowed out of the roof.

Capt. Fanion said deteriorating conditions inside the home, along with fire and heavy smoke throughout, spurred him to call in additional help from all available off-duty Barrington firefighters as well as surrounding fire departments. Crews from Providence, East Providence, Warren, Bristol, Swansea, and Seekonk fire departments assisted. Officially, it was a three alarm fire.

Firefighters remained at the home with the State Fire Marshal investigating and chasing hot spots until the late evening hours on Saturday, Capt. Fanion said. 

The house suffered significant structural damage in the basement, as well as fire and smoke damage throughout. 

As to what started the fire, Capt. Fanion said the State Fire Marshal and investigators from the Barrington Fire Department are “looking at the fireplace” on the first floor as a possible cause. 

Capt. Fanion said firefighters were able to rescue two of the family’s three pets. 

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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.