WESTERLY — Dunn’s Corners Deputy Fire Chief Carl Johnson said a fire that started in a garage and quickly spread to the bedroom in the house above it could have been a disaster if not for the exemplary work of the 20 to 30 firefighters on the scene.
Johnson, speaking after the fire scene was cleared at nearly 6 p.m. Monday, said the first call came in at 3:22 p.m. and when first responders arrived the garage was engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading into the second floor of the house at 25 Governor Ave. Reports from Westerly police indicate one of the residents, Julie Carr, said she had attempted to jump-start the 1989 Cadillac Coupe Deville in the garage earlier but had removed the cables from the car battery. The car is owned by her father, Robert W. Carr.
Johnson said the firefighters from Dunn’s Corners, Misquamicut and Westerly were able to save 90 percent of the building and no one was hurt. “It was a great unified effort and help of all the departments that made this so successful,” said Johnson. “We were able to save two of three cats from the house,” he added. Johnson said the occupants believe the third cat may have just run away from the building during the frenzied activity.
Julie Carr told police she was upstairs in the house when she saw “heavy smoke coming from the engine area” of the car and called the other resident of the house, Glenn Northrip. Carr said when the smoke got extremely heavy she called 911 and the couple exited the house.
Westerly Ambulance was also on the scene and helped tend to firefighters who had spent long periods inside the burning building.
The home is owned by Robert W. Carr of Westerly, according to Westerly Police Chief Edward St. Clair and online records. Carr was said to be out of town. The house is assessed at $404,800 according to town records.
Johnson said electricity to the building was shut off when power panels were compromised by the fire. Neither the fire department nor the police could confirm whether the occupants of the house had been working on the car or if they had been in the garage.
St. Clair said the fire is under investigation. Johnson said that a state fire marshal was on the scene and had not yet issued a determination of cause, but he said that the origin of the fire appeared to be the garage.
The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Red Cross said its volunteers, Elaine Chicoria and Gary Brown, were assisting the couple with emergency housing, food and clothing. The organization said it was also providing personal care items.