With flames that could be seen from as far away as West Shore Road, fire consumed the better part of the second story of 20 Overton St. in Oakland Beach Thursday morning.
“I thought it was the UPS,” Idella Johnson said of the pounding on the front door that alerted her and her husband, Ernest. Both had been watching television and had no clue of the fire.
A tenant who rents their converted garage spotted flames on the side of the house. He rushed to warn the Johnsons and called his wife, who in turn called 911. Ernest said he went to get a fire extinguisher, but even in that short time the fire had spread and the smoke was intense.
“I couldn’t walk in there,” he said Thursday afternoon as he and his wife surveyed the scene. “I had to turn around and get out.”
Idella described a bizarre scene. The electrical feed had pulled off the house and was “jumping” around, sparks flying. She didn’t know where to turn to be safe. The wire landed on their car, scorching the windshield and the hood.
Fortunately, both Johnsons made it out of the house without injury and firefighters were able to contain the fire to 20 Overton.
Jessica Young, who lives two houses down from the Johnsons, was on her couch and recalled looking out the window.
“I was thinking it was getting really foggy,” she said. That was until she opened her door and realized it was smoke.
“Thankfully, it was raining and there was no wind,” she said.
Firefighters quickly had the fire under control but remained on the scene until late afternoon. The Red Cross was at the scene and the Johnsons were accommodated in a van and provided a voucher to a hotel.
Idella said they have lived in the Oakland Beach home for about 20 years.
Warwick Fire Marshal Michael Matteson said the fire is still under investigation. He said the blaze originated on the second-floor porch and that his office is carefully reviewing video footage from a camera on another property. The investigation, he said, also includes a review of all appliances in the house – including two BlinkX cameras mounted on the Johnson home – to see if there had been any recalls.
He said the BlinkX cameras, which have magnetic mounts, needn’t be hot-wired for power. Matteson said the sparking power line “was after the fact.” The fire was already burning when it came off the house.