“It was like the Twilight Zone,” Mayor Frank Picozzi said Wednesday morning, recalling the events of the night before.
Picozzi was on a telephone call with House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi about 9:30. They were talking about the Hummel Report story on Warwick Fire Department overtime that ran in the Providence Sunday Journal when Shekarchi inquired if the mayor knew anything about a fire at his office on College Hill Road in Warwick.
The mayor said as a practice, the Fire Department texts him when there is a fire in progress, and he hadn’t received anything. As Shekarchi dismissed the call he received as a prank call, Picozzi received a text that indeed the office was on fire.
Shekarchi, who was on his way home from the General Assembly, diverted his route to his office. Picozzi joined him at the scene.
“He was shaken up,” Picozzi said of Shekarchi.
Picozzi said flames were shooting from the roof and firefighters were showering the building from overhead. He said he wondered how anything could be saved, nothing all the computers and files – the heart of Shekarchi’s law practice – that were in the building. The condo office, which Shekarchi owns, also houses the offices of his sister Mary and brother John, both attorneys.
In an email to the news media Tuesday night, Shekarchi is quoted: “I thank the Warwick fire and police departments and the state fire marshal’s office for their excellence and professionalism. I am so grateful no one was in the building and that there were no injuries sustained in fighting the fire. I have no idea about the cause and don’t want to speculate. I will let the professionals do their jobs.”
Picozzi said the department received a call about a possible grass fire behind McDonald’s on Route 2 and, after investigating, found the burning building. The building is one of several in the condo office park. The fire did not damage other buildings.
State Fire Marshal Timothy McLaughlin, who was at the scene until about 1 a.m. Wednesday and back again at 7 o’clock that morning, said investigation would start once firefighters had finished their work. Water was still being directed on hot spots at 9:30 a.m.