Cause of Pawcatuck blaze remains unclear, arson not ruled out

Cause of Pawcatuck blaze remains unclear, arson not ruled out


STONINGTON — Construction inside a vacant Mechanic Street building and “other factors” likely played a role in a Saturday fire at the boarded up property, but fire officials said Monday that further investigation is needed before a cause can be determined.

Pawcatuck Fire Chief Kevin Burns said Monday that the fire at 6 Mechanic St. remains under investigation and noted that the department is working in collaboration with the Connecticut Office of the State Fire Marshal. He said the department is still examining a number of factors in the case, including whether arson may have been a factor.

“We are still conducting interviews and evaluating our evidence. We have not made any determination as to the cause at this time,” Burns said. “There are a number of factors that we are still sorting out. We expect to hear from the state soon and will get together to compare notes.”

Burns said there was apparent construction going on within the building, but he was unable to comment further Monday as the investigation remains active. Stonington police are also involved in the investigation, officials confirmed.

Firefighters with both the Pawcatuck and Westerly fire departments were called to the two-story building, which is owned by Doug Hansen of Pawcatuck, according to Burns, around 5 p.m. Saturday after witnesses reported the fire.

The blaze caused heavy damage to the building, as well as to the neighboring Best Energy office at 4 Mechanic St. Best Energy, a one-story building that shares a wall with 6 Mechanic St., sustained minor smoke and water damage, as well as damage to the front windows after they were broken for ventilation, but the company was open for business Monday. Sheets of plywood replaced the two large windows at the front of the building and a sign on one of the sheets read “Thank you Pawcatuck Fire Department.”

The scene of the fire, which was less than a block from the intersection of Mechanic Street and Route 1, led officials to close a portion of the road leading into Westerly for a little more than an hour. Traffic was forced to use Stillman Avenue in Pawcatuck as a detour to navigate between the two states.

Officials said a Pawcatuck firefighter suffered a minor knee injury while hauling a hose and was taken by ambulance to Westerly Hospital. He was released later that evening, Burns said Monday, and was able to return to work at his full-time job.

No timetable has been placed on the investigation, officials said. Burns said he would release additional information once the investigation is complete.

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