PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Crews digging through rubble at the scene of a massive fire in Portsmouth have discovered a body, Portsmouth Fire Chief Michael Cranson confirms.
The fire started just after 2 a.m. at 183 Narragansett Blvd. and spread to two neighboring homes, creating an inferno that could be seen from Tiverton.
Firefighters from Tiverton, Bristol, Newport, Middletown and Swansea responded to assist in fighting the flames.
Two men and a woman made it out of one of the homes safely, according to Cranson. They’re now being assisted by the Red Cross.
Crews were working to determine if anyone was inside the other two homes when the body was found. Cranson said many of the homes in the area are summer cottages, so it was unclear if they were occupied at the time of the fire.
Firefighters later determined the third house was unoccupied.
“I believe we have everyone accounted for now,” Cranson said.
The body has not yet been identified.
Several firefighters also suffered minor injuries, according to Cranson.
John Santillo lives in the area and said he heard what sounded like several explosions coming from the area before he saw the flames.
“I was already awake and heard a very loud explosion,” Santillo said. “The house was fully engulfed in flames within five minutes.”
Cranson said the explosions may have come from the house’s propane tanks, though that has not been confirmed.
Firefighters were able to save homes on either side of the fire, according to Cranson, but the three that were involved are considered total losses.
“I live within 50 yards of the house, so my wife was very anxious and I was too,” Santillo added. “You never know where those embers can jump that far.”
The community is now helping those impacted by the fire. Neighbors were passing out jackets, gloves and blankets to those affected. The Common Fencepoint Community Center is collecting money donations for the families who have been displaced. The community center said they plan to brainstorm within the next few days on organizing more fundraising efforts.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.