Two Suspicious Fires Engulf Vacant Rockland Buildings

Firefighters battle the fire on March 28 at a vacant Reed St. house. photo courtesy Adam Straughn, ATS Photography

Sean Vo, Veritas Co-Editor-in-Chief

March, 2017

On the morning of Wednesday, March 22, a fire broke out in an abandoned warehouse in Rockland, Massachusetts. The seven-alarm fire on 76 Park Street started around 4:45 a.m. and firefighters from thirteen communities responded to the scene.

Due to the fire, Rockland Public Schools were delayed by two hours.

However, Jefferson Elementary School had to cancel school for the day as the power in the general vicinity of the fire was shut down.

No injuries were reported, but, according to senior Shandi Austin, the abandoned warehouse was home to some stray cats.

Six days later, on Tuesday, March 28, a fire burned down another abandoned building, this time a home on 278 Reed Street.

It became a two-alarm fire, and two neighboring homes had to be evacuated  as the heat of the fire melted the vinyl siding on the outside of one house.

Because both buildings were vacant, and there was no electricity or gas in either building, questions about how the fires started are being investigated.

Rockland Fire Department Fire Chief Scott Duffey, told the Patriot Ledger, “There was human involvement,” but he isn’t calling it arson yet. Chief Duffey told the Veritas, “There had to be people in those buildings.”

Duffey also said, “The State Fire Marshal’s office is investigating both fires, interviewing residents and persons of interest.”

Rockland High School freshman, Madeline Gear, lives close to the Park St. fire site and gave this account of the fire’s impact on residents living near by.

“For me March 22nd did not start out as a normal day. I was woken up at 4:50 a.m. by my mom who was saying that the old abandoned warehouse was on fire. My family and I got on our shoes and jackets, then went in our yard to see it for ourselves.”

“As soon as we walked out of the door, I could see the sky full of smoke and ashes, some the size of a two liter soda bottle coming towards my house. After taking the horrible view of the fire in, we went back inside to find that our hands, faces, and jackets were covered in soot, and we did not even get that close to the fire.”

“In the early hours of the morning, we lost power and our water was filled with rust because of the use of the fire hydrants. Later on in the morning, I had to go down the street to one of my friend’s houses to take a shower because I could not use the water at my house. When I went outside I saw a bunch of debris and ashes in my yard.”

“My house smelled so badly of smoke that day, and hazmat even came by to check the air quality in our house to make sure that it was safe for us to be there.”

With the wide impact of both fires, Rockland and surrounding towns’ firefighters are to be commended for their response as no injuries were reported.

Anyone with information about either fire can call the Arson Hotline at 1-800-682-9229; a reward has been placed for credible information.

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