PAWTUCKET — A four-alarm fire broke out on the second and third floors at the site of the former Morris Novelty store, located at 523 Main St., on Monday night, causing every department in the city to respond.
Fire Chief William Sisson stated the blaze began at about 8:15 p.m., and that no one was in the building at the time.
“It used to be an old novelty store, and the sprinkler system had been shut down,” he said. “It was a dry system, meaning there wasn't any water in there … There was a lot of debris up there; a lot of plastics, costumes and other novelty items. It hadn't been in operation for quite some time, but there were items still in there.”
“The building inside is very divided with walls and stairwells, and there are holes in the floor,” Sisson noted. “It was too dangerous for our guys to be in there; that's why it was an exterior attack. There are no firefighters inside the building … There's no word on a cause; that probably won't be determined until later this evening or early (Tuesday).”
No firefighter sustained any injuries, he said. Fire departments representing East Providence, Providence and North Providence provided mutual aid to Pawtucket stations.
Perhaps 10 minutes after the conflagration had been reported, firefighters could be seen scaling a ladder with fire hoses and other equipment and onto the roof of the one-story entrance to the building. To the right of the edifice, the Maaco Auto Body shop's parking lot, two others inside a ladder bucket wielded chain saws to cut holes into the brick/cement and wood walls.
All the while, black plumes of smoke billowed from the second-and third-story windows in front, more grayish smoke seeping from the sides. Plumes of fire also could be observed flying out of the rear second-story windows.
About 25 minutes later, more firefighters pulled wooden planks covering the first-floor windows to the left of the front door, allowing black smoke to blow over Main Street and also toward the nearby cemetery on Mineral Spring Ave.
“I grew up right over there on Harrison Street, near Gardiner Street, and I remember this being an old furniture store,” said firefighter Will Maher. “Before that, years ago, I would say it was an old mill.”