Investigators: ‘Several possible ignition sources’ for Bowdoin Street fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Bowdoin Street fire that left one woman dead and several others injured last month started in a bedroom on the first floor where two of its occupants said they occasionally used a hot plate to stay warm, according to an investigatory report released Friday by the Providence fire department.

The report, obtained through a public records request, ruled that the actual cause of the devastating blaze at 110 Bowdoin Street was undetermined, but several witnesses said the three-story home did not have working heat or water. The fire has been labeled accidental.

“There are several possible ignition sources investigators considered during this investigation, including the improper use of extension cords, a hot plate, and a space heater; as well as the building’s electrical system,” the report states.

Lucy Feliciano, 49, died in the Jan. 6 fire and eight other occupants received medical treatment, according to the report. She lived on the second floor of the apartment with Dexter Jackson, the owner of the home. The entire home had nine bedrooms and 11 occupants. The fire damaged several neighboring properties.

Eyewitness News reached out to the home’s owner, Dexter Jackson, who said he didn’t believe a hot plate could have caused the blaze.

“You try starting a fire with a hot plate,” he said. “That’s impossible.”

Jackson called the report “speculation,” and believes the fire started next door to 110 Bowdoin. Jackson wouldn’t directly answer whether the home had working smoke alarms.

As Target 12 previously reported, a city building official recommended the house be condemned after inspecting it just three days before the blaze. In a report, inspector Bill Monaco said he found the homeowner was running a boarding house and it was “a mess.” The property was also ordered condemned in 2015, but the owner rectified most of an inspector’s findings, according to the city.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said Jackson will not face criminal prosecution in the case. “There was not enough evidence to support criminal charges,” Pare said. “The matter is closed.”

All of the home’s occupants were interviewed by fire department officials following the fire.

Jeannette Knotts and Willy Gray, who shared the bedroom where the fire started, each acknowledged using a hot plate to heat the room, but said it was not being used at the time of the fire. Knotts said she used it earlier in the night, but “shut it off because it was warm enough,” according to the report.

Cindy Flores, who also lived on the first floor, told investigators she discovered Gray’s mattress on fire and saw a hot plate on floor. She claimed the plate was in use. Jackson told investigators there was no boiler in the basement and tenants used electric space heaters for warmth.

“Several witnesses, again including Gray and Knotts, report a mattress and television in the middle bedroom providing an adequate fuel package for the fire to grow and extend beyond the room of origin,” the report states.

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Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

Tim White ( is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook