Overnight fires in Warwick neighborhood ruled arson

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A pair of house fires that broke out just blocks away from each other in the Oakland Beach section of Warwick overnight were intentionally set, according to Michael Sweeney, chief of fire investigations for the State Fire Marshal.

The first fire started just after 1 a.m. Monday at 26 Strand Avenue and the second about two hours later at 429 Sea View Drive.

“There was just a giant fireball,” said Anne Diffily, whose barking dog alerted her to the Strand Avenue fire. “Really, there was no sign of the house…it was already totally engulfed.”

She called 911 along with other neighbors. After firefighters put out the flames, Chief James McLaughlin says a battalion chief spotted the second fire on Sea View Drive less than 1000 feet away.

Investigators ruled out accidental causes, according to Sweeney, and both fires were ruled first-degree arson.

Sweeney declined to comment on a possible cause for either fire. Warwick Assistant Fire Marshal Steven Kapalka said accelerant dogs did not immediately find anything at either home.

Esther Briggs, the owner of the Strand Avenue house, said she felt like she was going to throw up when investigators told her someone had set her house on fire. Briggs said she only lives at the waterfront home in the summer.

Both houses were heavily damaged.

No arrests have been made thus far. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Anyone with information should call (401) 383-7723. Tips can remain anonymous.