Search for clues in Providence fire to wrap up soon

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are expected to wrap up their on site examination of a five-alarm fire in a day or two, but there is no time frame for when the cause of the Kinsley Avenue blaze will be released, Target 12 has learned.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he was briefed on the investigation Wednesday, but he would not elaborate. The Providence Fire Department and State Fire Marshal’s office are investigating the fire along with an ATF National Response team.

“Nothing has been ruled out,” Pare said.

It’s now been eight days since the fire ripped through the 86,833 square-foot brick building. The ATF team of investigators arrived at the 115-year-old building last Thursday, with the excavation of the debris starting the next day.

Pare said the size of the fire was one factor in getting ATF involved, with ATF investigator Jeffery Magee saying his organization also has expertise in a number of areas that may help determine the cause.

“When local departments need additional resources such as chemists that can determine the cause and the origin of a fire, we respond,” Magee said.

Photos: 5-Alarm Fire Destroys Providence Mill >>
Photos: 5-Alarm Fire Destroys Providence Mill »

Records indicate the building housed at least two tenants, including the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. The medical marijuana advocacy organization’s executive director JoAnne Leppanen said RIPAC’s space was used mostly for classes.

“We did not grow marijuana there,” Leppanen said. “We have not been able to get into those offices yet.”

Leppanen added that her main concern as far as damage involves paperwork.

Documents indicate the other tenant was a company called Grosca, a company that according to its Secretary of State filings was formed “to design, produce and sell indoor growing equipment.” Christopher White is named as the manager in the LLC’s 2014 annual report, but White has not returned a number of telephone calls from Target 12.

Target 12 also reached out to the landlord and building co-owner Robert Stolzman, but he did not return our phone calls. Stolzman is also Grosca’s resident agent for the company’s corporate filings. Eyewitness news learned that Stolzman was trying to sell the building in the weeks before the fire. Providence land records peg the assessed value of the property at just over $1.2 million, with the replacement cost listed at just over $2.2 million.

Stolzman’s name may ring a bell. He was an attorney for the Economic Development Corporation when the 38 Studios deal was approved, and he is named as a defendant in the state’s lawsuit against the failed video game company.

At least seven ladder trucks and 12 fire engines battled the fire, and Fire Chief Clarence Cunha said when the first responders arrived, the blaze was burning full bore. As the fire progressed, three walls of the building crumbled and an explosion was heard. One firefighter injured his shoulder while fighting the fire.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau

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