Former assistant fire chief accused of paying teen for sex dies in fatal fire in Warwick
WARWICK, R.I (WLNE) – One person was killed in an early morning house fire in the Gaspee Point neighborhood in Warwick on Thursday.
The medical examiner has identified the victim, as Stephen Barker, 50, former assistant fire chief of the National Guard’s fire dept in Quonset. Barker was charged last summer for paying a teen for sex.
According to court records, Barker had a pre-trial conference on Wednesday.
Police said the fire was deemed suspicious on Thursday but on Friday they said that the fire was no longer considered suspicious.
The Warwick Fire Department was alerted of the fire on Namquid Drive by a neighbor around 3:30 a.m. When firefighters arrived, they had a hard time getting inside the home due to the home being fully engulfed and other factors, like a heavily locked door, according to the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal.
Once inside, crews were met with heavy smoke and fire and found the body of a male in the living room area.
State Fire Marshal Tim McLaughlin said the cause of the fire is suspicious. Thursday morning, an accelerant detection canine was brought to the scene to sniff out any red flags.
“We brought her in to see if there’s an accelerant, if she got any hits from different things. So, at this point, we’re looking at everything. She appeared to hit on a couple of things, so we’re gonna do some investigation, take some samples and send them to the lab.”
No pets were found inside the home and there was no one else inside at the time of the fire.
Neighbor Bob Bartis made the 911 call when he saw the flames while heading out to go fishing.
“I saw some smoke. I actually thought it was fog, but I saw the flames coming from the window. I ran over there, called 911, and there was absolutely nothing I could do. The flames and smoke was just too hot.”
“I really thought about it,” said Bartis, about attempting to make his way inside the home to rescue the man. “I was banging, and banging, and banging, and running around screaming and yelling and trying to get in. Nothing. It just got too bad. I had to walk away.”
Bartis said his neighbor was always quiet and kept to himself. He said he lived by himself in the home along with a dog.
“People had mixed thoughts about the guy, you know, there was some issues in his life which I can’t elaborate on, you know. But other than that he was kinda quiet.”
Bartis commended the firefighters on their efforts and said what he saw Thursday morning, will stick in his mind.
“It’s terrible. It’s gonna bother me for a long time. I mean, I’d save anybody, you know?”