Fire crews: Electrical short outside home led to fire

Photo: WPRI / Perry Russom

CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — An electrical cable shorting out and overheating is being blamed for a fire that burned a Broad Street home Monday afternoon, according to Cumberland Fire Department chief Kenneth Finlay.

Smoke detectors never went off — because the fire started outside the addition that had been built onto the front of the building, Finlay said. Someone passing by saw the flames and sounded the alarm.

Chief Finlay said the construction of the building helped fuel the flames. Furthermore, his crews were on scene all night Monday night into Tuesday morning, dealing with hot spots, as debris kept smoldering and reigniting after the roof collapsed.

The building consists of three apartments and two businesses. Eyewitness News got an exclusive look inside Tuesday morning with Chief Finlay. Water dripped from the ceiling, and charred debris dotted stairwells.

“The fire traveled along the attic of the first building and then broke into this area, which was a bell tower,” Chief Finlay said. The moment that bell tower came crashing down was caught by a viewer’s cell phone camera.

Air spaces, in some areas up to two feet wide, between the original building and an updated facade, helped the flames travel around the building — and proper firewall construction would have helped his crew contain the flames, the chief said.

Jean Maignan lives in the rear apartment; he first got the phone call from his daughter, he said Tuesday: “She said, Dad, you need to go home now, I think the building is on fire.”

Maignan’s apartment mostly has water and debris damage. But he did not have insurance.

Right now he and other tenants are getting help, but by Wednesday they’ll be on their own, he said. “I don’t know what to do or where to go. All I have is in that apartment. All I work for is in that apartment.”

The tenants’ friends and family are establishing GoFundMe pages for those wishing to give them a hand with expenses.

On the first floor, a chiropractor’s office rents space; when reached by phone Tuesday morning, they would only say they’re doing their best to get through the situation.