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Community plans benefit for displaced family

February 20, 2011

BURRILLVILLE - The local community is rallying around a Harrisville family that was displaced from their home after a Feb. 13 garage explosion and house fire, which left the owner of the 505 Mount Pleasant home with second- and third-degree burns over 43 percent of his body.
A benefit pasta lunch and dinner to raise funds for 56-year-old Walter W. Andrews, and his wife, Wendy Andrews, is being coordinated by Town Councilman Edward Blanchard and town resident Brenda Keeble with the help of several town residents, including Tina Hope Copley and Kelly Klegraefe.
"The Andrews lost everything," Blanchard said. "Walt has second- and third- degree burns on 43 percent of his body and has a long road ahead of him. Wendy and their beloved dog are holding their own with family and friends. I have known Wendy for five years and can say she is a great friend."
The group visited local businesses this week to seek donations for gift baskets that will be raffled off at the pasta fundraiser, scheduled to be held Sunday, March 13 at Pascoag Fire Department Hose 1, 105 Main St. A pasta lunch will be served from noon to 2 p.m., and a pasta dinner from 4 to 6 p.m.
Bertucci's in Warwick has donated the main meal, which will include Rigatoni Abruzzi, penne with meatballs and marinara, salad, bread, beverages and desserts.
There will be gift certificates and gift baskets raffled off at both seatings.
Tickets are $15 per person and can be purchased beforehand or at the door.
"It’s great to see the community getting together with us to help out a great family," Blanchard said. "So far, we have over 10 gift certificates and five baskets, and some businesses are donating time and products for the event. We are looking for more donations for raffle baskets as well as people who would like to donate their time and work the day of the event."
To donate, volunteer or purchase tickets, call or email Blanchard at 401-710-7415,; or Keeble at 401- 935-6740,
"We're asking that anyone interested in helping Walt and Wendy get back on their feet while at the same time enjoying a delicious meal come down for what we hope will be a great event," Blanchard said.
In the meantime, Walter Andrews remains in serious condition at Rhode Island Hospital where he is being treated for burns to his face, hands and torso, as well as inhalation burns, or burned lungs.
According to authorities, Andrews was working in the two-car garage, which was attached to his ranch-style house by a breezeway, when it suddenly exploded just before 1 p.m. last Sunday. The garage was a total loss, and the fire, which spread to the 1,656-square-foot single-family house, caused heavy damage, making it unsuitable for habitation.
Andrews was home alone at the time of the explosion and no one else was hurt.
At least one published report said that when the fire broke out, Andrews ran into the house to rescue a pet dog.
The cause of the explosion inside the garage is still under investigation, but what is known is that Andrews had been inside reportedly grinding materials at the time. Several neighbors reported hearing two separate explosions come from the home.
Andrews reportedly told rescuers he ran from the garage after the initial blast.
"Apparently the homeowner was working in the garage, he noticed that there was a fire, and shortly after he left the residence there was a major explosion," Nasonville Fire Chief Gus Eddy said in published reports .
The explosion remains under investigation by local fire officials and the state fire arshal's office.
Firefighters from eight departments responded to the fire, including Chepachet, Pascoag, and Uxbridge.

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