PAWTUCKET â€” A fast-moving fire in a multi-family house at 20-22 Greene St. on Tuesday morning caused heavy damage and left five people homeless.
According to a Pawtucket Fire Department official, the tenant who lived in the third-floor apartment where the blaze is believed to have originated is Jennifer Poulin, the sister of the late Massachusetts National Guard Spc. Dennis C. Poulin, who died last year in Afghanistan. Poulin lost her cat in the blaze, along with most of her belongings.
In another sad twist, Poulin's mother, Doris Poulin, was burned out of her duplex apartment by an accidental fire at 34-36 Home Street in early December and also lost a lot of furniture, clothing and personal items.
According to Pawtucket Fire Chief William Sisson, the occupant of the second floor apartment, Fernando Dos Reis, who is also the owner of the house, called 9-1-1 at around 9:30 a.m. to report the blaze. He told dispatchers that he heard smoke detectors going off and that smoke was coming from the third floor.
Sisson said that when firefighters arrived to the three-alarm blaze, they found an active fire on the third floor of the yellow, wood-frame house. He said Dos Reis had gotten outside and that no one else was home in either the third floor or the first floor at the time. Some neighbors were told to evacuate as a precaution due to the close proximity of the houses.
William LaGrave, who lived in the house next door, said he had heard the smoke detectors going off, and when he looked outside, he saw the whole front of the third-floor apartment in flames. He said he was told to evacuate and he brought his three dogs and a cat outside as well.
LaGrave said he believed that the third floor apartment had only been rented to a new tenant about a month ago, and that the previous third-floor tenant had moved to the first-floor apartment.
Other neighbors said that the owner of the house lived on the second floor with his wife and their two young daughters, who were believed to be at school during the fire.
Sisson said it took about an hour for firefighters to bring the three-alarm fire under control. He said that the Central Falls Fire Department also responded and provided assistance. No firefighters were injured.
The fire burned away much of the roof and caused other portions to collapse, and destroyed most of the attic and third floor apartment. Extensive smoke and water damage throughout the rest of the house rendered the building uninhabitable.
The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Red Cross was called in to assist some of the tenants with finding new lodging.
Capt. Steven Parent, the city's fire marshal, said the cause is still under investigation. The state Fire Marshal's office is assisting Pawtucket investigators.
Parent added that it appears the three-family apartment was not in compliance with the new state law requiring hard-wired smoke detectors. He said there was also evidence of an illegal basement apartment in the house, which investigators are looking into.