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Fire ravages historic Block Island hotel

Flames swept through the Harborside Inn overnight, and firefighters were still on scene Saturday

Aftermath of fire at the Harborside Inn on Block Island, R.I.Block Island Times

A large fire broke out overnight in a historic inn on Block Island, a popular summer destination off the Rhode Island coast, drawing fire crews from the mainland to assist the local fire department as they worked for hours to bring the blaze under control, officials said.

Firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the Harborside Inn in New Shoreham, the island’s only town, at 11:23 p.m. Friday and found a fire in the first-floor kitchen, according to Town Manager Maryanne Crawford. A second alarm was struck about 20 minutes later, bringing mutual aid to the island, she said in a statement.


No injuries were reported, and the town’s emergency shelter at the Block Island School was opened to hotel guests who were displaced from the 36-room hotel, Crawford said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal’s office, Crawford said.

The extent of the damage was not immediately clear. Dispatchers for the New Shoreham Police Department and the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department said no one was available to comment Saturday, and town officials did not respond to messages seeking more information.

The Harborside Inn sits along Water Street in the town’s commercial district overlooking Old Harbor where visitors arrive daily through the Block Island ferry terminal. The inn has been hosting guests “for over a century with its Victorian seaport charm,” according to its website.

Firefighters were faced with a limited water supply as they tried to knock the fire down, and town officials on Saturday urged residents and visitors to conserve water over the next two days.

The fire, which was contained in one building, burned for about six hours before crews could bring it under control, according to the Block Island Chamber of Commerce.


The chamber on Saturday morning said the island was under an “active state of emergency,” but Crawford, the town manager, said later in the day that “no formal state of emergency was declared.”

The inn’s roof caved in at about 1:30 a.m., the chamber said.

At least 50 firefighters from across Rhode Island were called in to assist the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, according to the chamber.

Emergency vehicles were transported to the island by ferries throughout the night, the Block Island Ferry said in an alert on its website. The fire forced the ferry service to run on a modified schedule Saturday but is expected to resume normal operations Sunday, according to its website.

First responders were also assisted by the Point Judith US Coast Guard Station, Interstate Navigation, and New England Airlines, Crawford said.

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee said his office is working with the Rhode Island office of the US Small Business Administration to support affected businesses on the island.

McKee praised the work of first responders both on the island and those who came from the mainland to help, noting the large fire came a day after Rhode Island was hit with the strongest tornado it has seen in nearly four decades.

“From responding to an unprecedented tornado yesterday to helping contain a dangerous fire on Block Island, we are incredibly grateful for the tireless work of emergency responders across the state over the last 48 hours. Thank you for keeping Rhode Islanders safe,” McKee said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.


Block Island is about 12 miles from the Rhode Island coast and has a population of 1,000 year-round, and it gets 15,000 to 20,000 visitors daily during the summer, according to its website.

Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Jesús Marrero Suárez can be reached at jesus.marrerosuarez@globe.com. Follow him @jmarrerosuarez.