Corrigan Continues Assault on Fire District Merger

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan (left) presented another chapter to her look back at the 2013 merger of the East Greenwich Fire District into a town department, continuing her argument that it took place without due diligence and with grave financial consequences for the town. (Find her report here.)

As she has done several times in the months since she’s been town manager, Corrigan said the fire department was too expensive and needed to be fixed.

Her solution: restructure the department into three platoons that work 56 hours a week from the current four platoons and 42-hour work week. The town has sued the firefighters to be able to impose the restructure immediately; firefighters say they have a valid contract until 2019.

Corrigan’s report, while repeating arguments made in earlier reports, did take more exact aim at some of the people in charge in recent years. In particular, she cited what she said was the inexperience of former Town Manager Tom Coyle, former Town Solicitor Peter Clarkin and former Fire Chief Russ McGillivray in negotiating contracts.

However, Coyle served as police chief before becoming town manager and negotiated contracts in that position; Clarkin negotiated several rounds of contracts for three unions during his tenure in East Greenwich before adding the firefighter contract; McGillivray came from the larger West Warwick Fire Department and served as deputy chief in EG for three years before becoming chief. McGillivray and Coyle both hold master’s degrees in public administration.

Corrigan questioned the increase in the number of “service calls” (i.e. miscellaneous calls) between 2013 and 2014 (when the district became a department). As she said, the increase was due to the decision to classify alarm box resets as service calls.

In a phone interview Thursday, McGillivray (who took over as chief in 2013) offered this explanation for the classification change: “We were just trying to account for the hours and the work that the fire department was doing. When we went from the fire district to the fire department, I saw that social services and police department were very data driven and I wanted to get a better accounting of the work we actually did.”

Meanwhile, the total number of incident calls (including service calls) has risen steadily in recent years.  Even if service calls are subtracted, the fire department had more than 1,000 additional incidents in 2017 than it had in 2006, the year the fire district topped out at 36 total firefighters. In 2006 there were 2,386 incidents; in 2017, there were 4,121 (665 of them classified as service calls).

Corrigan also highlighted a jump in rescue billing rates between 2015 and 2016, but said she had not yet looked into the cause for the increases.

Former Fire Chief John McKenna (who served as chief from 2005 to 2010) was at the meeting Monday and during public comment he said that spike came after the billing company – Comstar – went from using a base rate and subcategories in its billing charges (for instance, separating out fees for starting an IV or using oxygen) to having one blended cost. McKenna, who now works in private industry, said the change was for all Comstar clients, public and private. McGillivray gave the same explanation Thursday.

In her report, Corrigan spoke about raises, saying some firefighters got a 48 percent raise in the current contract, while everyone else in town got 2 percent raises.

According to firefighter union president Bill Perry, the firefighters got a 2 percent raise like everyone else but he acknowledged that six so-called lateral transfers (firefighters hired from other departments) were given the salary of a second-year firefighter instead of a first-year firefighter, which came out to about $3 more per hour for those six firefighters (a 2 percent raise that year would have been in the range of 50 cents an hour).

He said he did not know where Corrigan got the 48 percent figure.

During public comment Monday, Perry urged the council to talk to other municipalities where they have put in a three-platoon system. There have been four.

In North Kingstown, town officials imposed a three-platoon system that was fought extensively and expensively in the courts; firefighters there lost after it was ruled they did not have a valid contract. A three-platoon system was also imposed in Providence, but the city abandoned it after years of litigation and went back to a four-platoon system. The city had to pay Providence firefighters several million dollars in overtime accrued during the three-platoon, 56-hour work weeks. Tiverton and Central Coventry Fire District also have three-platoon systems – Tiverton’s through negotiation and Central Coventry’s was imposed after that district went bankrupt. Corrigan runs Central Coventry.

“Do your due diligence. We have an active contract,” said Perry. “I would hope that everybody would be adults and sit down instead of having attorneys become wealthy off the community. Nobody benefits from that.”

“Bill, we’d be happy to sit down,” Council President Sue Cienki said.

The last attempt to negotiate failed in December; both sides blamed the other side.

Corrigan said she would present “phase one” of her restructuring plan at the April 9 Town Council meeting.



 

Hot Tub Catches Fire After Wednesday Night Power Surge

Volunteers at the Fire Canteen truck hand Dana Gee a cup of hot coffee after the worst was over Wednesday night. Dana’s husband, Mark Gee, state senator, is on the right.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

It’s a good thing the Gee family stays up late, said Dana Gee Thursday. That’s because her son Griffin Gee, an 8th grader at Cole Middle School, was still up around 11 p.m. Wednesday when he smelled something funny. He looked out his bedroom window and saw flames coming from the hot tub that sits near the house in the backyard. Griffin notified Dana, who was in her office downstairs.

Dana’s other son, Zing, called 911 while Dana grabbed a fire extinguisher they keep at the back door, figured out how to use it (it wasn’t hard, she said) and set to work on the blaze. It just so happened they had two other fire extinguishers that they ended up using as well. Hope Gee, Griffin’s twin sister, opened the door for the firefighters when they arrived and corralled the family’s two dogs. It was a family affair.

“The kids were epic, as were the firemen,” said Dana. She said she was very grateful the family had the fire extinguishers.

“If I had not had the fire extinguishers, there is no question in my mind we would have lost part of our house,” she said. As for doing the dirty work – “I always wanted to be a firefighter,” she joked.

The Gees’ burnt hot tub.

Dana said apparently there had been a power surge somewhere on Cedar Avenue (the Gees live on Middle Road a little west of Cedar) around 10:30 p.m. Somehow that caused a short in their hot tub, which had not been used in  years. All of this took place during the second nor’easter in less than a week, which brought heavy, wet snow and wind.

Dana said she was very grateful, too, for the all-volunteer fire canteen, which shows up to provide food during fires around the state.

“They handed me a hot cup of coffee at around 12:30 a.m.!” she said.


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King Street Fire Displaces 7

Firefighters at 66 King St.

A gas heater was responsible for a fire at an apartment house at 66 King Street Saturday morning that displaced 7 residents. No one was injured.

According to Capt. Tom Mears, the call came in at 8:05 a.m. and firefighters were on the scene within two minutes. That was fortunate, he said, noting that the building had balloon frame construction, common in older buildings. Balloon frame structures do not have built in fire stops.

“It was an aggressive fire,” Mears said. “It was only a matter of time until we lost the building.”

Eight firefighters put out the fire, with Capt. Mears taking charge.

Several residents evacuated the building. After the fire was under control, firefighters and one resident returned inside to look for a cat, which was found upstairs inside a couch. Firefighters also rescued a parakeet.

The residents have been displaced until utility services to the building are restored.

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Murder in a Small Town – The Dusza-Reynolds Story, Part 2

By Bruce Mastracchio

(Find the Part 1 of this story here.)

The Pawtuxet Valley Daily Times, Aug. 31,  headline screamed out:

REYNOLDS PLEADS GUILTY TO FIVE MURDER COUNTS!
CONFESSED SLAYER OF DUSZA FAMILY  AWAITING MENTAL TESTS AT CRANSTON PRISON !

Edwin Reynolds, 27, confessed slayer of a family of five (again no mention of unborn baby), today languished in a Providence County jail cell under special guard awaiting the arrival of alienists, who will conduct mental tests.

The emotionless father of three, whose estranged wife described him as a guy “who wouldn’t even kill a chicken,” pleaded guilty to five counts of murder.  He was arraigned before district court judge James W. Leighton, in the council chamber of the East Greenwich Town Hall (since razed for a parking lot) on Main Street.

He maintained an icy nonchalance as he stood charged with the slaying of his former friend, his friend’s wife and their three children.

The judge ordered a plea of innocent given as he held the rubber plant worker for a Grand Jury hearing Oct. 23. Reynolds confessed that he beat Dusza to death and then used a chair, axe, rope, silk stocking, necktie and his hands to take the lives of the rest of the family after he learned that Mrs. Dusza told her husband of the affair she was having with Reynolds.

Then, to cover up his crime, he saturated the home, where he was a boarder, with gasoline and turned it into a funeral pyre. HIs capture came when his collie dog led police to his hiding place in a Quonset hut.

His estranged wife, Betty Reynolds, 28, expressed a wish that he never “be turned loose on society again.” She wanted him dead to her children so they would never know the horrible thing their father did.

She said she would stick by her husband to a point  but it was also learned she was making plans to move out of East Greenwich to another community.

Still later:  DRAMA PACKED COURTROOM EPISODE LASTS 8  MINUTES !

While a curious, but restless crowd gathered around the entrance to the Town Hall (I was there just one week shy of my 8th birthday). As I said I remember my Grandmother Ucci being particularly agitated. My house was down the alley just the other side of the police shed behind the Town Hall. There was a door in one of the stalls that opened up on my backyard.  Reynolds stood there, flanked by two police officers, one local, one a state trooper and was brought in to be arraigned on five counts of murder.

In the drama packed courtroom the episode lasted 8 minutes with police and news reporters as witnesses as Judge Leighton read five warrants charging Reynolds with murder. Reynolds pleaded guilty to each count.

When the legal proceedings were complete, Judge Leighton left the courtroom, and cameramen were given time to take pictures of Reynolds standing at the rail flanked by the two police officers. He was still wearing the soiled white T-shirt and dungarees he had on when captured. He calmly leaned against the rail and stared as flashbulbs popped from all corners of the small room. He made no comment and kept the same dead-pan expression throughout the proceedings.

Before he was taken out, police went out and moved the agitated crowd back enough to give a wide path from the courthouse to the waiting cars. Waiting to take the mass murderer to prison to await trial. When Reynolds appeared the crowd shook fists and yelled at him. As he was put into the car the crowd broke and surged around the vehicles.  Some to get a peak, and some to scream their thoughts at the killer at least one more time.

Edwin Reynolds was given a life sentence  but just a year or so ago, he either died, or was released from prison.

He was 92 years old.

Writer’s note: Interesting things I learned from this story were:

1. The fact that the baby’s death was not noted as another person killed by Reynolds as today it would have been included and he would have been charged with 6 murders.

2. The newspapers back then were a third again wider than today’s paper.

3. Though the headlines were big and multiple this was not spread all over the front page.

4. The reporting was succinct, factual and not sensationalized.

5. I always thought it was Dooser and could never keep straight which was the murderer and which was the family.

Hope you enjoyed the trip back to August 1950.

 

 

Murder in a Small Town – The Dusza-Reynolds Story, Part 1

The Dusza family is buried in the East Greenwich Cemetery on First Avenue.

 Editor’s Note: This is a true story.

“I was 8 years old and running with a dime in my hand. To the drugstore to pick up the paper for my old man.”   – Bruce Springsteen 

I was almost 8 years old when it happened. I remember some scenes vividly. My grandmother in the crowd clenched fist in the air and screaming as they brought in the suspect. The crowd acting almost like a lynch mob.

But on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 1950, none of that was known just yet. The Providence Journal headline yelled: “Five Known Dead In East Greenwich” (funny thing – one of the dead, the wife, was pregnant, but they didn’t include the baby as someone who died, even after the fact. It would be different today.) “Sixth Feared Lost; 3 Victims Are Children! Blaze Puts Phone Out Of Action, Delaying Alarm In Lonely Section!”

My father responded along with a host of volunteers from the East Greenwich Fire District to the call on Carr’s Pond Road. He had his camera and filmed the goings on at the “pig farm,” as it was called. I still have the film somewhere though most of what you see are shadows and fire.

The firemen recovered five bodies: Fred Dusza, 39, his pregnant wife, Beatrice, 31, and their three children, Beatrice, 11; Kathryn, 8; and Gail, 3 1/2. Missing in the count was the body of the boarder, Edward Reynolds, 27. 

There was evidence that the fire started in the cellar, then quickly spread through the 2-story, 7-room house that Dusza had built himself. When a neighbor discovered it, the house was already an inferno. Just after 4 a.m., the light from the Dusza phone came on at the switchboard in the Greenwich exchange, but the operator got no response. The whole party-line phone system in the area was shorted out.

Another neighbor drove the 4 miles into town and raised the alarm. When the firemen got there the house was pretty much in ruins. Catholic priest Father Metsy was there to give last rites, as was Dr. Taggart, serving as medical examiner, and Police Chief Charles Johnson, all observing the firemen work under the direction of Captain Herbert Wilson.

The fire appeared to have started under strange circumstance because Leon Gendron, father of Mrs. Dusza, said the house had no heat or cooking fire. 

Mr. Dusza was a hard-luck soul, who had lost an eye in one accident, fingers from his hand in another, had at least other two accidents, and had lost his piggery (farm) in another town to bankruptcy. And his house was once struck by lightning.

The first body was found at 8 a.m. Subsequently the firemen found four more. Despite intensive searching, the volunteers could not find the body of the itinerant boarder, Edwin Reynolds, 27, who was staying with the Dusza family and doing odd jobs there so he could be close to his estranged wife and children, who lived just up the road from the Dusza pig farm.

It was then that questions started to surface.

End Part One

– Bruce Mastracchio

2 Coyotes, 1 Deer & A Rescue, Of Sorts, on Greenwich Cove

coyote
One of the two coyotes ran to the middle of Greenwich Cove after Warwick FD scared them away from the deer they had chased onto the ice .

To Joe Thornton and Geoff Blake of Norton’s Marina, it looked like maybe a person walking on the ice had fallen into the water with two dogs standing nearby Tuesday morning before 9. With air temperatures in the single digits, and water temperature just above freezing, they called 911.

A closer look revealed it wasn’t a person and dogs at all. Rather, it was a deer that had been chased onto the ice by two coyotes intent on a meal. The deer had fallen through the ice and was in the water with one of the coyotes starting to attack and the second coyote lying several feet away.

coyote-deerWarwick Fire arrived and a team suited up in red cold-water rescue suits took out over the ice toward Goddard Park.

“When we got close enough to scare off the coyotes, the deer got out by itself. The water’s not very deep there. The deer took off into the woods,” said Battalion Chief Miles Steere.

“We got the call as a dog rescue,” he added. “What we worry about with a dog, people tend to go out and try to save dogs and go in themselves. A dog rescue can become very dangerous very quickly.”

deer and coyotes 1
A photo taken by Geoff Blake at Norton’s of the coyotes on the ice with the deer in the water to the left, before Warwick FD arrived.

The coyotes continued to roam the ice on Greenwich Bay while the firefighters were on the ice, keeping their distance, but not going away. One kept circling closer to Goddard Park side, as if weighing another hunt for the deer.

“We just gave the deer an extra few minutes,” said one of the men in red as they returned to the Norton’s dock.


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Crompton Ave. Fire Damages Back Porch

EG fire truck

Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong address. Sorry for the confusion.

A fire Wednesday evening at 174 Crompton Ave. caused heavy damage to the house’s back porch but just slight smoke damage inside the house and there were no injuries, said Fire Chief Russell McGillivray.

The fire was called in at 6:51 p.m. after a neighbor noticed it. No one was home at the time.

McGillivray said one of the residents used the back porch for smoking and ashes from the wood stove had been dumped there – either one of those may have caused the blaze, he said.

The fire was extinguished from the outside and the residents have been able to remain in the house. It was not considered suspicious.

 

They Called Him ‘Chief’ For A Reason, Part One

A portrait of Fire Chief Fred Miller that hangs at the EG Volunteer Fireman's Hall.
A portrait of Fire Chief Fred Miller hangs at the EG Volunteer Fireman’s Hall.

Growing up here in old East Greenwich was great for a lot of reasons.

There was the smallness of the town. The fact that it had three very separate and distinct areas; the Main Street town portion, the waterfront  and the farm country up in Frenchtown.

For me, it provided opportunities to do a lot of different things like quahaugging, hanging out on Main Street, riding horses, hunting, fishing, swimming and playing ball constantly.

But, one of the other things that was good about old East Greenwich, was the people. We had our colorful ones and our characters but we also had a lot of good people back then.

I guess you would call them role models now, but back then they were just people we saw all the time, and looked up to, and respected. They could have been a parent(s), a friend’s parent(s), coaches, teachers, counselors, priests or police, or, the guy down the street. They were all around, every day, and most of them provided examples and lessons that you might notice and hang your hat on. You would have had to have been asleep to miss them.

Oh sure. We had our 10 percent. If you have ever been in the service you know what the 10 percent means. They are the people who never get the word, no matter what the word is; or, the people who are only out for themselves and bang ho anyone else. They are around anywhere, small town or big.

But mostly, I felt there were a lot of good people to hang your hat on here in East Greenwich, and I saw them at church, in school, on the street, on the ball fields and in one of the places that served as a training ground for many an EG boy, the fire department.

The person I am writing about this trip is former East Greenwich fire chief, Fred Miller. He is gone now, but for many years around here, he was The Fire Company! He went back over 40 years, starting out as we all started out, as a volunteer, and working his way up to chief of the department, which he turned into one of the finest volunteer companies in the state.

Though I had a lot of exposure to him back then at EGFD, there was one thing about him that amazed me even then, and still does to this day.

Chief Miller, Fred, coached Little League baseball for over 20 years! In itself, that might not seem much. But, the kicker is, he never had a son! Only two girls (Janet and Diane) by his wife of many years, Jeannette. I always thought that was the most amazing thing.

Wanting to give back myself I got involved in Little League and Biddy Basketball here in EG while still in my teens. I saw a lot that shaped my thoughts on coaching for years to come. Many of those thoughts were brought about from the actions of parents and fathers, who only seemed to get involved because their sons were of age. They came in with their kids and left when their kids left.

Their kids, good or not, were always the feature pitcher, batted third or fourth, and always seemed to make the All Star team. I saw fights and behavior from adults that I was unaccustomed to at the time, but which was a harbinger of things to come, and which has become common down to the current day.

Yes, I know that Little League needs active parents in order to survive. And that most people will not get involved unless their kid is involved. I get that.  But. That’s what made Fred Miller stand out even more. He was there every year. Year in and year out with No Son on the team! He had “his boys” on the General Motors team, but they changed again every three years or so.

He was a good coach too, and his teams were always at, or near, the top. Fred also served as a Merit Badge Counselor for the local Boy Scout troops.   Having spent 45 years coaching high school myself, I have seen the antics, and the damage, that parents can do to their kids, and to the programs their kids are in. It is not a laughing matter. Still, what Fred did was, then, and has always seemed refreshing to me, and a model to follow.

Though, as I go along and tell the rest of the story about what made Fred great, believe me, he was not alone on my list of those standout people in EG, his example in Little League was that one thing I always admired him for. The ability to put forth the time and effort and service with NO Ulterior Motive was something that shaped a lot of my thinking back then, and also later in life. I can only hope I have come close to him. He was the embodiment of the selflessness and volunteerism that I saw on a regular basis back then. People like Ralph Marden, Father Joe, Reverend Pickells, Dom Iannazzi and others too numerous to name provided example after example and it was right in front of you for the taking.

Fred Miller was one of a kind. Not many can match the more than 40 years he served as fire chief in East Greenwich (more than 60 years in all). He gave his life to the fire department and to the town of East Greenwich.

One of his closest friends, George King, a WWII veteran and himself a firefighter, once said of him: “This town will never see another like him. You will not see someone who will put the time into this town the way he did!”

But, he not only put in the time. Just as he did in Little League coaching, Fred gave the town quality time and saved the taxpayers’ money time and time again over the years.

For many years his salary was $500 a year! Only after he retired from Bostitch as a toolmaker did he finally agree to a raise up to $2,500. Even then he would often split that money up to give to his deputy chiefs. The year Fred retired they hired a new chief at a salary of $18,500!

People tried to tell him he was crazy for not taking more money but he wouldn’t hear of it. He just wouldn’t do it and he never said why! He just didn’t. Maybe the word “volunteer” meant just that to him. No one will ever know. He never said then and he went to his grave without explaining why.

I kind of think that good men are made that way. Not a bad way to be.

Again, his friend, Mr. King observed, “He was curious like that. I guess he just felt that he was a volunteer chief, and everyone else was doing volunteer work, so that was enough. It was just the makeup of the man.”

Of course, just because he and the department were volunteer doesn’t mean they couldn’t be the best. Fred shaped the East Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department into one of the best in the state. Even the region!

Just like his championship Little League teams, Fred had the “boys” performing at a high level, looking and working “spiffy and sharp,” not only in their duties and their firefighting, but also, in the Muster and Firemen competitions that were held almost every weekend through the summer months.

An East Greenwich native, Fred joined the purely volunteer company in the 1920s. He always wanted to be a fireman, just like his dad, Gus Miller. In those days the department was filled with volunteers whose fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and friends had served before them.

It was just moving from the point where the major equipment was a hand pump and hose, to where they had a horse-drawn fire truck. He was there for all of it, and in 1953 he saw the department add full-time dispatchers.

Of course, it has grown so much since then.

Fred, who served as president of the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Association, was also induced into the East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame and chosen as Rotary Club Man of the Year.

In his day he was an outstanding all-around athlete, playing football and baseball for the old East Greenwich Townies. He was also an outstanding swimmer, winning a host of long-distance races back then like ones from East Greenwich Yacht Club to Rocky Point and from Warren to Rocky Point (five miles). He also won the Fall River and Narragansett Pier races as well.

All that experience led to his getting involved in youth sports, starting with Little League baseball, when it came to East Greenwich in 1953.

End of Part One 


Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich and loves telling stories of his boyhood in a simpler time, in a small town, filled with outstanding people, amazing characters and adventures by the barrelful.

EG Police Reports: Smoke and Fire

eg police car, side viewThese reports come from the East Greenwich Police Department and are public information. An arrest does not mean the individual has been convicted of a crime. EG News does not identify those arrested for misdemeanor charges.

Saturday, Jan. 10

11:18 a.m. – Police were called to assist EG Fire after a report of excessive smoke coming from a chimney on a house on Stone Ridge Road. When police arrived, they could hear the smoke detectors sounding from inside the house but the smoke outside did not appear excessive. No one was home and everything was locked, so EGFD had to break a small window pane on a door leading to the garage. Smoke was found to be coming from the boiler, which was then switched off. Police were able to contact the homeowners using information from a building permit on a window in the front of the house.

3:01 p.m. – Police arrested an EG woman, 45, on a bench warrant while she was being treated at an urgent care clinic after Narragansett police alerted EGPD of her whereabouts in connection to a domestic violence investigation they were conducting. The woman was taken to the station, processed and released on surety bail by the bail commissioner.

3:13 p.m. – The owner of Salon Vogue on Main Street told police someone called saying he was from National Grid and that she owed money on a late bill. She recognized this as a scam and hung up. She called back but used *67 first to hide her phone number. The man who answered said he was from a collection agency. She gave the number to police and they called. The man again said he was from a collection agency, but when police said they were calling from Salon Vogue, the man paused, said have a nice day and hung up.

3:37 p.m. – A West Warwick man told police he was worried about getting back a guitar he’d left on consignment in August at King Guitar Ltd., a store on Main Street. The store has since closed and been replaced by a new business, which the man just learned. The phone number has been disconnected but the man had not yet tried to reach the owner via the internet, so he said he would try that. The guitar is worth approximately $2,000, according to the man.

7:22 p.m. – Police were called to assist at a house fire on Middle Road. The house was engulfed in flames by the time police and fire arrived. Police blocked off the road to help fire trucks access the scene. The two occupants, a father and daughter, had escaped without harm. According to the daughter, she and her father were sitting in the main part of the house when she noticed the fire on the enclosed porch. She helped her father, who is 88, get out of the house, along with three of their five dogs. Firefighters found the other two dogs, both safe in a bedroom. According to the police chief, a firefighter was bit by one of the dogs when he went to retrieve the dog from under a bed. He was treated at Kent Hospital and released. Police took the residents to a local hotel courtesy of the Red Cross. The offending dog was taken to NK Animal Hospital, where it was put in quarantine.

9:30 p.m. – A North Kingstown man told police his car was vandalized while it was parked at the Park ‘n Ride on South County Trail. The passenger window had been smashed with a piece of concrete, which was sitting on the driver’s seat. Missing from the car was a phone charger, $5 cash, and a $100 Providence Place gift card. The man said he’d locked the car before leaving it at 11 a.m.

Sunday, Jan. 11

2:08 p.m. – Police arrested a Westerly man, 38, for driving with an expired license after he was pulled over for speeding on Frenchtown Road. He was given a district court summons but told the summons would be voided if he brought proof of a renewed driver’s license to the EGPD within 10 days. His wife drove the car from the scene.


 

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Middle Road Fire Started In Area Of Washer, Dryer

middle road fire 1
The scene at 1796 Middle Road the morning after a fire there caused significant damage.

The fire that displaced two people and caused significant damage to a house at 1796 Middle Road Saturday night started on the outside porch in the area of the washer and dryer, said EG Fire Marshal Steven Hughes Wednesday.

“We call it ‘undetermined,’” said Hughes, since without running extensive – and expensive – tests there’s no way to know exactly what caused the fire. A report that it was caused by a space heater is unconfirmed, he said. According to one of the residents, there was a space heater on the porch but Hughes said it’s not known if it was in use at the time of the fire.

While the exact cause had not been identified, it was not a suspicious fire, he said.

fire blazing
A neighbor captured this picture taken before the first fire trucks arrived at 1796 Middle Road early evening Saturday.

Fire damage was largely confined to the outdoor porch, but there was extensive heat and smoke damage throughout the one-story house.

“The guys made a great stop,” said Hughes. “They stopped the fire before it got into the area above the ceiling so the house was not a complete fire loss.”

Hughes did urge residents to take some basic safety precautions when it comes to dryers, like cleaning out the lint tray regularly. He said he cleans his dryer twice a year to get rid of any lint that may have escaped the lint collection tray.

“Lint is made up of parts of fabric, which can be flammable,” said Hughes. “It’s like a cotton ball, it would readily ignite if exposed to flame.”


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