WOONSOCKET — A fire believed to have broken out in the basement area of a six-apartment tenement building at 285 Cass Avenue left eight residents looking for temporary housing Wednesday evening.
Everyone was reported to have exited the three-story, wood-frame building without injury after a resident, alerted by a neighbor, ran through the structure banging on all the doors as the fire spread up from the lower level shortly after 6 p.m.
Sherri Peloquin, 49, a resident of the first floor, credited Glen Gendron with alerting her to the danger. "He pounded on everyone's door and he let them know there was a fire," Peloquin said. The rushed evacuation left Peloquin outside in the 25-degree weather wearing a pink terry-cloth bathrobe and a pair of blue half-slippers.
The Greater Providence Chapter of the American Red Cross was on scene arranging temporary housing for the residents as firefighters continued their work in the heavily-damaged building.
Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Girard, scene commander, said a city rescue crew had been nearby at Landmark Medical Center when the call came in and was able to assist the residents exiting the front of the building as the fire began to break out from the rear basement area of the structure and burn upward into the attic.
The first fire crews on scene made an entry to check the apartments, including a third-floor apartment of a resident not accounted for at the time, Girard said. The resident was determined not to be at home and the firefighters then began putting in lines to knock down flames spreading to the upper level apartments. The fire was seen erupting from windows overlooking Cass before being extinguished by the firefighters inside the building.
Rick Dias, the owner of Rick's Bar and Grill next door to the tenement building, said he had smelled something like paper burning around 6:10 p.m. and went out to see smoke coming from the building. "I called 911 and alerted one of the residents," Dias said.
The property's owner, Daniel Peloquin of Oregon Avenue, said he got a call from Gendron while the fire was under way and was able to tell him the third-floor tenant was not at home.
"He had pulled the fire alarm and got everyone out," Peloquin said of Gendron's efforts to alert his neighbors. "Most people would have just run out, but he ran up to all the doors," he said.
Peloquin, who found firefighters at work on his property upon his arrival, said he was just glad everyone had made it out safely. "That was my biggest concern, that someone might have gotten hurt," he said.
The building was insured but Peloquin said he did not yet know the extent of the damage from the fire as firefighters continued to work inside.
Damaged areas included where the fire had worked its way up from the basement both inside and outside the back wall, and also the upper-level apartments where it had begun to spread toward the front the building. The fire crews were able to knock down the fire before it destroyed the roof, he added.
"They did a heck of a job, they really did," Girard said of the responding firefighters.
The fire caused busy Cass Avenue to be blocked for several hours while the damaged building was overhauled and the power cut until repairs could be made. Police Lt. John Picard said the department was working with fire department investigators on the cause but nothing had been determined Wednesday night. "It's still under investigation right now," he said.