Provincetown, Massachusetts

3 Alarm Structure Fire
278 Commercial Street

14 March 2002

Photos and text by Britton W Crosby


Side 3 parking lot

Provincetown Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 278 Commercial Street in the center of Provincetown within view of town hall.  The call was dispatched at 0007 hours on Thursday March 14, 2002.  Provincetown Police Department arrived first and reported heavy fire showing.  Upon arrival of Provincetown FD units, a large 2.5 story balloon frame structure with a clothing store on floor 1, and storage / living areas on the 2nd and 3rd floors, had fire showing through the roof and from all sides.  Arriving apparatus laid several supply lines and made an aggressive attack to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to exposures only feet away.

A 2nd alarm was ordered at 0014 hours bringing mutual aid to the scene from several towns.  The fire appeared to be contained at one point, but a heavy fire load on the 2nd floor continued to create problems requiring a full evacuation of the building and a 3rd alarm at 0106 hours.  Apparatus responded to the scene from as far away as Chatham, while units from as far away as Hyannis relocated for station coverage assignments for several hours.

A heavy fog condition with no wind and mild temperatures in the 40's helped the fire department in containing the fire.  Ladder pipes from Ptown L192, Wellfleet L93, and Orleans L176 operated to contain the fire along with numerous handlines.

The fire was brought under control and units began being released around 0430 hours. Cause of the fire is under investigation but considered accidental at this point.  One minor injury occurred to a fire fighter.  The building received heavy fire damage, burning away much of the roof and causing some interior structural collapses. 

Commercial Street in Provincetown is a very narrow, one way street with very extreme congestion and major exposure problems for the fire department.  In February 1998, a huge fire just down the street at 241 Commercial Street destroyed the famed Whaler's Wharf, Crown and Anchor Inn, and two other structures during one of Cape Cod's largest fire responses.


L192 and E194 operate on side 3

L192 ladder pipe on side 3

Wellfleet L93 operates on side 1 Commercial Street

PTown Chief Trovato meets with mutual aid chiefs. L93 in background.

Provincetown E193 on Commercial Street Side 1

Orleans L176 operates on Side 1

E193 and Orleans L176 on Commercial Street

Orleans L176

A "Zany Arcade" indeed.... E193

Provincetown E193 on Commercial Street

Side 3/4 of the incident.  Orleans L176 operating

Orleans L176 on Commercial Street

Provincetown Engine 193 pumping on side 1