RI – By Chris Keegan, The Sun – A fire suspected to have started by the combustion of propane gas damaged a home known as the historic Old Schoolhouse Sunday afternoon.
Watch Hill Fire Department Chief Scott J. Harold said the one-story, former schoolhouse at 20 Westerly Road caught fire after two small explosions occurred inside a crawl space. The building is one of the oldest structures in Watch Hill, and served as a schoolhouse from 1852 to 1901, according to homeowner Robert Stokke.
Bruce Kirchner of 19 Westerly Road said he notified local emergency officials of a heavy gas odor in the neighborhood. Local firefighters arrived to find smoke and visible fire at the home, but were able to knock down the blaze quickly, Harold said.
At the scene shortly after 3 p.m., the home showed no visible damage from the street, save a gash in the gray, wood siding that revealed insulation and an axe-cut ventilation hole in the roof.
Vehicles from the Watch Hill Fire Department, the Misquamicut Fire Department and the Westerly Ambulance Corps crowded the intersection of Westerly Road and Everett Avenue, as firefighters worked to ensure the fire was out in the Memorial Day weekende heat. No injuries were reported.
A Suburban Propane gas tank located in the home’s basement that is used to heat a water tank may have caused the explosion, he said. An official cause of the fire remains under investigation.