Lit cigar by voodoo priest may have started fire

Maureen Boyle

The voodoo priest who was ordered to stop burning items and selling advice from a Legion Parkway storefront two years ago may have accidentally set the fire that destroyed the inside of an Arch Street home this week.

Roland Hilaire, the voodoo priest, told police and fire investigators he may have left a lit cigar in his “prayer room” at the house when he dashed out to buy a lottery ticket.

“He said he believes he left it lit on the table,” Fire Inspector George Kropas said.

The fire is considered accidental, he said.

Officer Scott Uhlman said investigators believe there were also candles in the room, but it was unclear if they were lit at the time.

The fire at the tiny 16 Arch St. home was discovered by a passerby who then called for help on a cell phone, Uhlman said.

Hilaire, who lives in Pawtucket, R.I., told authorities he occasionally stayed at the house. Thimothee Francois is listed as the owner of the house, according to the city assessor's records.

The owner takes care of his elderly mother and was not living in the house at the time, Kropas said.

Hilaire came to the attention of police and fire officials in 2005 while running Arc-Angel Reader and Advisor Religion and Bookstore on Legion Parkway.

At the time, he was ordered to stop burning items inside the store and to stop offering advice for sale without a fortune teller's license.

City officials had been called to the business at the time after workers at a neighboring business smelled smoke.

Uhlman, who was one of the first officers at the scene at the time, found Hilaire in a backroom that was filling with smoke, hovering over a smoky bowl.

Hilaire told officials then that he was summoning a spirit of the sea by burning seafood to help a woman from New Jersey who was having problems with a boyfriend and finding a job.

Maureen Boyle can be reached at mboyle@enterprisenews.com.