Fire sweeps through Providence apartment complex, 16 units damaged

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A four-alarm fire at an apartment complex on Chatham Street in Providence over a dozen people homeless on Saturday.

Crews responded to heavy smoke and flames around 2:20 p.m.

Firefighters said the building’s design allowed those flames to spread quickly. The building is 16 units — four suffered fire damage and the rest have water and smoke damage.

Bonnie Palin heard smoke detectors going off in her building — but this time it wasn’t a false alarm.

“I sat there for a second because they go off a lot over here. I got up to go outside and it was just pitch black smoke everywhere,” she said.

Palin called 911 and got her six-year-old daughter and dog out safely.

Fire officials said everyone made it out of the complex safely and no firefighters were injured.

Palin believes the fire could have been much worse.

“Flames coming out and I just heard the glass smashing, pop, pop. I started smashing on everybody’s doors to get out and now we’re left with nothing,” she said.

Deputy Assistant Chief Steve Capracotta said almost the entire Providence Fire Department responded and that the building’s structure posed a challenge.

“There’s just an open loft throughout the entire building so once it got up into that it just went laterally throughout the entire building. The roof is a truss roof, so once a fire gets into that it takes 5-10 minutes before that starts collapsing.”

Palin has called the complex home for the past fifteen years. She said her apartment is among the middle units, which suffered the most damage.

“I’ve just been standing here balling my eyes out. There’s nothing I can do. I lost every single thing. I was about to get in the shower. I have no clothes, no shoes. I have nothing. I lost all my paperwork, my bank cards, everything is in my house burnt to shreds,” she said.

Capracotta said there were a lot of animals in the building that they were able to save, but as of now two cats are missing.

The Red Cross is on the scene helping people who are displaced.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire.

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