CONFLAGRATION: a destructive fire


Yesterday a massive fire occurred in Providence involving several three-story apartment buildings housing Providence College students.  Thankfully, no students were injured, but more than a dozen firefighters were transported to hospitals with a variety of injuries and conditions.  One firefighter is fighting for his life, having breathed in dangerous chemicals resulting from the fire.

It was a general alarm fire, meaning that all available fire equipment were summoned to the scene from throughout the city.    (Ironically, during the fire fight, another fire broke out in another section of the city requiring several of the trucks and personnel to leave the college fire and rush to the scene, where they were joined by fire fighters from neighboring communities.)

In both cases, the fires were categorized as conflagrations, meaning they were massive fires requiring outstanding skill on the part of the firefighters.   The flames were fanned by 50+ mph winds, causing the flames to spread to neighboring buildings.  It was a frightening scene for over an hour until the blazes were brought under control by the highly-professional firefighters of the Providence Fire Department.  In the end just a shell remained of the original building, and two or three other buildings were so damaged as to call for the students to abandon them.  The college stepped in to house them and to assist them with their needs.

It was interesting to see the word conflagration used to characterize the massive fire.   I had never thought about its meaning, assuming that it was a word that could be attributed to any building fire.  But I was wrong.  It is a word that specifically defines the size of the fire and the extent of it.   The word is from the Latin, conflagrāre to burn The sense is that the fire is devastating, literally consuming the building.   Such was the case, as the shell of the building collapsed into itself, leaving just a pile of blackened rubble.   An hour or so earlier, it had been an attractive home with a flag flying from its second story.   eaton street

The owner, 02908 Rentals, owns most of the apartment buildings on the street, renting them primarily to the college students.  They are attractive, well managed, and each of them has American flags flying from the second floor.   They are often home to college parties, known as the “Red Cup” street in Providence.  There is a light-heartedness to the setting, but that light-heartedness changed to horror as the students watched the fire do its damage.   The conflagration brought with it a sense of reality as the possibilities of injury or death displayed itself in the otherwise cerebral setting of a college campus.


Photo Credit: CBS tv

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