PAWTUCKET—The cause of the Nov. 5 explosion that prompted a devastating fire at a triple-decker at 420-422 Mineral Spring Ave. has been determined to be “accidental” according to state and local fire officials.
The explosion tore the front walls off of the 133-year-old house and sparked a blaze which injured a young father and his 9-month-old daughter. The extensive damage to all three apartments left that family, a second floor tenant and another young family on the first floor homeless.
“The cause of the fire is from a gas event from a leak within the structure,” Fire Chief William Sisson said. He noted that state utility inspectors, after checking the gas lines from the street to the building, had ruled out an exterior gas leak as a potential cause.
“We do not know what the ignition source was and may never know due to the condition of the building,” Sisson said. The fire chief said his investigators had worked with State Fire Marshal John Chartier and his office in determining the cause.
There had been much speculation that either a newly installed gas heating system had been behind the explosion, or the use of the stove by the third floor tenants. A new heating system had been installed by an East Providence heating company sometime last month, but city building officials say they had never received a request to have it inspected. Also, the third floor tenants had given accounts that they had been baking something in the oven at the time of the explosion.
Yet, Sisson said that the exact cause of the explosion and fire, which was pinpointed to the third floor apartment or attic above, has been found to be inconclusive. “Everything that we could rule out was ruled out,” he said.
Sisson said that the new heating system didn't seem to be a part of the problem. “Usually when an explosion is due to a heating system, the house is dislodged right off the foundation. It wouldn't have been on a top floor.”
Due to extensive damage, the building was subsequently demolished by the city.