The Westerly Sun
CHARLESTOWN — Former Fire Chief Dave Lamb said he is trying to keep a positive outlook despite the Sunday blaze that left him without a home and most of his belongings.
Lamb served as a member of the Charlestown Richmond Volunteer Fire Department for three decades, including nearly 20 years as chief. He is hopeful that, if the right circumstances fall in place, he will someday return to the neighborhood he had called home for the past 29 years.
“Right now, there are a lot of challenges but these guys (the firefighters), the community ... they have all been great,” said Lamb, who was displaced from his home at 654 Alton Carolina Road, Route 91. “What really stood out to me and made this more bearable, there are the number of people who have come out to support me. It really shows why I love this community. So many people here have their hearts in the right place.”
By Tuesday afternoon, a GoFundMe page started by his niece Kerri Lamb had more than 130 donors and had already raised over $7,700 toward an initial goal of $20,000 to help get him back on his feet.
“He lived there for 20+ years with his wife (Patti), he lost 4 years ago,” Kerri Lamb said in a post. “He had Christmas lights many people loved and adored. He helped bring happiness to this community so now I’m asking if you can help in anyway to help him out.”
Lamb is known throughout the region for the extravagant Christmas display he has set up over the years on the property he rents on Route 91. He retired from service several years ago but has remained active with the department, serving on the Board of Engineers for the Charlestown Fire District. He and his dog were at a birthday party Sunday and were not home when the fire occurred.
A cat named Sam still has not been located and is presumed to be dead, Lamb said.
Charlestown Fire Chief Don Rathbone said the fire, which erupted around 1 p.m., began in a living section of the home and spread quickly before a neighbor saw the smoke and reported the fire. Rathbone said firefighters arrived to find the home engulfed in dark smoke and flames coming out the front and side doors.
With the aid of volunteers from the Carolina, Cross Mills and Hope Valley-Wyoming fire departments, Rathbone said firefighters established two direct lines and were able to contain the blaze quickly. With other teams helping with ventilation and overhaul, the fire was knocked down in less than 30 minutes, he said.
The Charlestown Ambulance Rescue Service, Charlestown police and the Providence Canteen Unit all aided in the response.An official with the Rhode Island Office of the State Fire Marshal said Tuesday that the fire was determined to be accidental and was likely caused by an electrical malfunction.
Rathbone said that Lamb “may not be an active member in response any more, but he’s still a member of our board and someone who is very well known in town. We didn’t realize it was his home at first, but as I drove up by the salon and saw the smoke rising, I looked and was surprised to see it was Dave’s house.”
Rathbone said that in a small town, responders often help at scenes involving people they know, and must quickly put their emotions aside to carry out their duties. Hearing from Lamb and knowing he was physically OK helped ease the minds of some older members and those who knew Dave, Rathbone said. “For us, just knowing that made a difference,” he said.
Decorative items used in the Christmas display were stored in a nearby shed and were not affected by the fire, Lamb said, but he did lose approximately $7,000 worth of computer and music equipment that served as the central operating system. Most of his other belongings were destroyed.
Lamb and Rathbone said local firefighters offered assistance before they had even left the scene. His niece, Kerri Lamb, also offered him an immediate place to stay, in addition to administering the GoFundMe page, he said.
Donations to the GoFundMe site can be made at shorturl.at/kBCM4.
Rathbone said firefighters are also supporting a regional fundraiser, to be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at Exeter Fire Station 1. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids, seniors and first responders. For more information or tickets, see the event listing on Facebook at facebook.com/events/181070339853024/.
Lamb, who had rented the property before the fire, said he hopes to return to the neighborhood that he has long called home. Insurance adjusters representing the landlord were at the property on Tuesday, officials said.
“I love this town, even more now,” Lamb said. “I have had a great relationship with the landlord and with so many neighbors. I hope when all is said and done, I will find my way back here and be able to continue the display that has become an annual Christmas tradition.”