Providence, RI High Street Fire, Feb 1888



PROVIDENCE, R. I., Feb. 26.--- John P. Fuller, a call member of Steamer No. 8 of the Fire Department, has been arrested on the charge of incendiarism. In the rear of 597 High-street is Henry A. Grimwood's extensive lumber yard; at 599 William Hadfield keeps a confectionery and periodical shop, and next the shop and separated only by a narrow lane is W. J. Merrill & Co.'s grocery and meat market. Last night the Hadfields had closed their store, but were still astir in their apartments above, when, after midnight, they heard some one prowling about the back yard. Looking out they saw a bright blaze among some oil barrels and rubbish at he back of the lane. A big man was struggling to get through a high board fence, which has one plank torn off, but the hole was too small for him and the fence was too high to scale. So he ran up the lane to High-street.

The Hadfields raised the cry of fire. At the head of the lane, on High-street, were two of the clerks in the grocery, who fully identified the man who ran from the lane as Fuller, and supposed that he was running to give an alarm. Fuller ran to the Harrison-street engine house, where he went to bed without saying anything about the fire. The two clerks put out the blaze before the oil barrels were well afire. Fuller was arrested this morning. He professed total ignorance of the fire, and says he was not on the side of High-street during the evening. He has been a call fireman for nine years, and before joining the department had been a policeman for six years. He is employed in the Department of Public Buildings as a teamster. He has borne a good character heretofore, although sometimes given to drink. He was frequently morose or abstracted. It is alleged that he is mentally unbalanced. Chief Steere of the Fire Department had an interview with him to-day in the cells at the City Hall, but found him either drunk or deranged. He could give no intelligent account of himself and did not apparently comprehend his situation.

The firemen are greatly distressed over the affair. There is a theory among them that the many serious fires of the past 12 days had turned the man's mind, and that he is not responsible for what he has done. Investigation fails to connect Fuller with the cause of any other of the recent fires. He will be arraigned in the District Court to-morrow morning.

The New York Times, New York, NY 28 Feb 1888