The tower that stands in the woods off Woonsocket Hill Road might not look like much these days, but it has a long role in the state’s firefighting history.
Peter Branconnier, who visits the site regularly in his capacity as director of the North Smithfield Emergency Management Agency, said the steel structure is tagged with graffiti and the woods around it are torn up with makeshift ATV trails. The chain link fence around the tower, he said, is often cut from people trying to sneak up into the cabin at the top.
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, however, towers such as this one were the state’s first line of defense against fires in rural areas, where a forest fire might not be spotted from the road. Observers stationed at the top of the tower would keep their eyes peeled for signs of fire and alert local fire departments to any danger for miles around.
Home fires in Rhode Island have increased 40% compared to this time last year. That's why the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is joining with the American Red Cross in a program to prevent home fires. Sound the Alarm Prepare-a-thon is a volunteer effort to educate communities about how people can better prepare themselves and their loves ones.
"Home fires have become more frequent during COVID-19 because more families are staying home," says Marc Pappas, Director, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. "In a home fire, you only have two minutes to escape. The best way to survive a home fire is to prevent it in the first place. It's critical that we help our neighbors protect themselves."
"Sound the Alarm Prepare-a-thon does just that," says Susan Roberts, Executive Director, American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter.
Eighteen of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns have at least partially vaccinated more than half of its residents, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
The state started administering COVID-19 vaccines roughly four months ago on Dec. 14. As of Thursday, every city and town had at least partially vaccinated more than a third of its residents and nearly half of all communities currently exceed 50%.
Leading the way is Block Island, formally known as New Shoreham, with 86% of its 743 residents at least partially vaccinated. The top five also include East Greenwich, Jamestown, Barrington and North Kingstown.
The least vaccinated communities include Foster, Providence, Newport, Tiverton and finally Woonsocket, which ranks last in the state with 35% of its population having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
WPRI-TV CBS 12 Providence