standing Ocean House Watch Hill

The Ocean House in Watch Hill. Sun file photo

WESTERLY — Members of the Watch Hill Fire Department were called to the Ocean House at about 11:20 p.m. Monday when heavy smoke set off fire detectors in the subbasement level of the property. Fire Chief Robert Peacock said the fire was confined to a large motor in one of the building's main mechanical rooms, and was quickly extinguished.

The subbasement section also includes squash courts, a billiards room, and hallways leading to the parking garage.

As a safety precaution, Watch Hill issued a request for mutual aid from the Westerly Fire Department. Westerly Ambulance personnel and Westerly police also assisted.

Peacock said the fire left a considerable amount of smoke in the subbasement. Firefighters used a combination of negative pressure smoke ejector fans, which draw smoke away from confined areas, and positive pressure fans, which blow the smoke, in order to contain the smoke and guide it out through the parking garage. "It's a balance," Peacock said. "You need to find the path of least resistance in order to get the smoke where it needs to go."

The firefighters, who had arrived within 3 minutes of the alarm, were on scene for about an hour and a half. The incident caused some smoke damage to the subbasement, but fire damage was limited to one machine.

There was no need for evacuations because the hotel was not open to registered overnight guests. During the first few days of the week in January and February, the hotel conducts maintenance that can't be done with guests present, according to the staff.

Peacock said the fire was likely caused by fluctuating power levels resulting from high winds. Firefighters noted that portions of the building had only partial power during the windstorm. Power was secured to the affected areas with the assistance of the Ocean House engineering staff, and National Grid personnel arrived on scene at about 3 a.m. to evaluate and correct the problem, officials said.

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