NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A building at the Wickford Shipyard Marina in North Kingstown has been deemed a total loss after a destructive three-alarm fire early Tuesday morning, according to North Kingstown Fire Chief Scott Kettelle.
Firefighters from several surrounding communities including Narragansett, South Kingstown, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick and Exeter responded to Steamboat Avenue after the first call came in around 4:07 a.m. Tuesday, according to Kettelle.
“The building in question is a light-gauge metal building, so it is not heavily constructed. As a result, early on in the fire, we had a collapse of some of the sidewalls,” Kettelle said. “There were no people inside the building, so we did not risk putting people in at that point. We kept people at a safe distance.”
The structure housed two small businesses: Coastal Ironworks and the George W. Zachorne Jr. and Sons shipbuilding and repair shop.
Euegene Lee -the set designer for Saturday Night Live and the Broadway musical “Wicked” – had commissioned George Zachorne and his son Dominic to build him a custom boat.
The ship was lost in the fire, but another of Lee’s boats was being kept just outside the building.
“It’s going to have to be rebuilt,” Lee said, turning away from the charred building. “I can barely look at it, it’s so awful.”
Firefighters arrived to heavy smoke coming from the upper floors of the building and were unable to enter because of the ferocity of the flames. Fireboats from Newport, Warwick and Cranston pumped water from the bay onto the burning building.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said there was minimal impact to the water and that catastrophe was avoided when a 6,000-gallon tank of diesel and gasoline next to the building was spared by the flames.
No one was hurt, but many who visited the scene of the fire Tuesday lamented the fate of the boats, tools and artifacts that the Zachorne family had stored inside the building for 18 years.
“It wasn’t just a workplace, [it was] literally their entire lives,” said Ted Romanosky, a customer and friend of the family. “A lot of personal effects, a lot of family history, and the shop was really more of a museum than anything else.”
“Devastating, it’s really devastating,” he added.
When reached by phone, George Zachorne said the fire is a tough pill to swallow. A life-long shipbuilder who lives part-time on a boat, he said he wasn’t sure what the estimated cost of the damage would be.
“I’m afraid I haven’t considered that,” he said.
The Rhode Island State Fire Marshal was on scene Tuesday. Investigators are set to review drone footage and surveillance video as they investigate the cause.
“I hardly know how one recovers from this,” Lee said.