WOONSOCKET – A man died in a three-alarm fire that heavily damaged a four-family tenement near Landmark Medical Center early Wednesday morning.
Neighbors identified the victim as Jim Ferrio of 38-40 Dulude Ave. He was in his late 40s, they said.
Roland Desjarlais said Ferrio lived on the second floor with him and other members of the Desjarlais family. “We took him in,” said Desjarlais, adding that Ferrio worked part-time with him in construction and a family trash-hauling business.
Desjarlais said the fire broke out on the third floor after Ferrio went upstairs to visit a neighbor and accidentally set fire to a chair with a cigarette.
“Jim was smoking, caught a chair on fire, took it out to the porch and it burned,” said Desjarlais, as he surveyed the blackened exterior of the olive-green tenement. “What you’re looking at here is a tragedy.”
Deputy Fire Chief Roger Perreault said the fire was reported about 1 a.m. He struck two alarms after the initial report, calling in mutual aid from the Cumberland Hill and Blackstone fire departments.
“When we pulled up, this side right here,” said Perreault, pointing to enclosed porches on the two upper stories, “this was a solid wall of flames.”
Firefighters had the fire under control in about three hours but they were still on the scene at 9 Wednesday morning to make sure the fire didn’t rekindle.
The roof of the house collapsed and there was heavy fire damage on the third and second floors of the house, but Desjarlais said the family hoped the dwelling was repairable. At least seven people lived in the house, including five members of the Desjarlais family who are now homeless
Desjarlais said most members of his family would probably be provided with temporary shelter by the Red Cross.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo