Explosions heard from 5-alarm Somerset fire

Commercial Building Fire in Somerset (Kim Kalunian/WPRI, April 9, 2017)

SOMERSET, Mass. (WPRI) – Small explosions could be heard coming from a multi-alarm fire that tore through a firearms shop in Somerset on Sunday evening.

Calls for the fire at the intersection of County and Buffinton Streets came in around 4:30 p.m., according to Somerset Deputy Fire Chief Paul Paquette.

Paquette said the fire quickly went to three alarms, the highest level in Somerset, and mutual aid from at least eight surrounding communities was called in to help battle the flames coming from 1016-1019 County St.

Flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the two-story building, which houses Commonwealth Firearms, Somerset Tours and Travel, and a small paint and wallpapering business.

Dawn Estacio told Eyewitness News that up until five days ago, the building also housed a fourth business: her own custom apparel shop.

“[After] four years, we moved our last stuff out Monday,” said Estacio, who said frequent electrical problems in the building prompted her to move out.

She said she couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw her former building burning.

“Just when you think God doesn’t have your back, think again,” she added.

The fire set off multiple rounds of ammunition inside Commonwealth Firearms, but Paquette said it didn’t pose a danger to firefighters because none of the bullets became projectiles.

“We heard a few of the rounds going off from the flames,” said onlooker Thomas Moniz, who noticed the smoke when driving by with friends. “You could hear the popping.”

Moniz and dozens of other onlookers were kept across County Street in parking lots ringed by police tape. Officials closed multiple streets in the area Sunday, and are asking the public to stay clear of this scene for their own safety.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen in Somerset,” Moniz said.

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By 7:30 p.m. officials in Somerset had the fire under control. Paquette called it a “stubborn” fire, and said the building’s old frame, along with combustibles on the second floor, contributed to the ongoing flames.

“Crews tried to make entry into the first floor but were driven out by the heat and smoke,” said Paquette, adding that firefighters were forced to battle the flames from the outside.

By Sunday evening, an excavator was demolishing the building as investigators looked for the origin of the fire. The cause is under investigation.