History of Riverhaven
Woonsocket - June 9, 2000
It was a sultry early June day; hot, muggy, and humid. While the threat of thunderstorms forced high school graduations indoors, it was a normal day in Woonsocket.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., the first call of fire in the Jenckes Mill complex rang out. Woonsocket firefighters had frequently been called to the seven Woonsocket - EMC Fireacre abandoned mill site, a crazy-quilt warren of rooms and corridors added to the site since 1822, to put out small fires set by roaming juveniles and vagrants who accessed the poorly secured site. City officials had ordered the owners to raze or repair the structures. On June 7, Municipal Court Judge Lloyd Gariepy issued an arrest warrant in the name of the "agent in service" for the company, once that person could be identified.
Woonsocket firefighters had standing orders about this site - no one was to enter unless a life was at stake.
The original fieldstone building in the center of the complex was the Jenckes Mill, the oldest mill site in Woonsocket. Over the years, the mill was called the Dunn Worsted, making woolen goods and was finally home to Electronic Molding Corporation. While a thrift store tried and failed to make a go of it in one of the newer areas, the complex had been vacant for at least 10 years. Concerns about possible pollution of the site had hindered other development.
Firefighters faced a voracious fire. A second, third, fourth, and fifth alarm was struck. A major concern was to keep the fire from spreading to a residential block of multifamily homes and a furniture store across the street and downwind of the inferno. (Embers ignited a pile of used mattresses in the furniture store dumpster. About 200 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes.) Fire and rescue personnel from North Smithfield, Lincoln, Cumberland, Blackstone, Millville and other surrounding communities poured in to assist and to provide station coverage.
While firefighters fought the fire, the Woonsocket police department started its investigation of the blaze.Woonsocket firefighters had already received information that someone had been in the mill just as the fire started. Police arrested two young men at the scene based on information given to them by area residents. After the investigation, the police announced the arrest of two juvenile males, 17 and 16, one of whom had been involved in a previous arson.
Woonsocket firefighters doused the building and thanks to the quick work of the fire department, no lives or homes were lost.