Twisted tale of Charles Scott & his municipally-forced insomnia

Pilot, lotto winner and retired firefighter deemed a squatter on his own land

Posted 12/14/22

Charles Scott calls himself an artist that owns works by some of the world’s most notable artists; an automobile enthusiast who owns a Lotus plus other eccentric high performance cars; a driver …

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Twisted tale of Charles Scott & his municipally-forced insomnia

Pilot, lotto winner and retired firefighter deemed a squatter on his own land


Charles Scott calls himself an artist that owns works by some of the world’s most notable artists; an automobile enthusiast who owns a Lotus plus other eccentric high performance cars; a driver who’s rolled more than one car at the Seekonk Speedway demolition derby; a commercial pilot who survived two crashes; a skydiver who survived a parachute accident; a retired 20-year Providence firefighter twice recognized as ‘Firefighter of the Year,’ receiving Presidential citations.

It seems unbelievable, yet he tells his story as if what he’s been through is an every day occurrence.

That’s not the end of it either. Scott was charged as the leader of an arsonist ring and found innocent in a court trial. He is a recovered alcoholic. He is also a $1 million lottery winner and the owner of two Warwick properties — a house on Rocky Point Avenue on Warwick Neck and a garage on Tidewater Drive in the Riverview neighborhood. For the last, five years, however, he has spent a lot of his time between a wheelchair and a recliner in the trailer he has behind the garage. He is recovering from multiple surgeries — he’s not sure of the number, maybe 30, or possibly 40 — and the implant of steel rods in his leg aimed at addressing years of hard work as a firefighter and many accidents.

Home Sweet Home

Now Scott finds himself in a 4-year tangle with the city building department. He lives in his trailer, not the house. The reason is because there are four steps to get into the trailer and 14 to navigate in his house. The issue is the General Business zone of the garage. The zone doesn’t allow for live-in trailers or motor homes. Trailers and motor homes can be located within the zones — you just can’t sleep in them.

Scott made his trailer into a home. It’s over the top. While not spacious, it’s richly decorated with all the amenities you might want. Money hasn’t been spared to make it like home.

Well, money and Scott seem to have an attraction ever since his parents left New York City when he was a kid and the family moved to Rhode Island.

One might ask: Why is he putting himself through the agony of battling the city when he could buy another house?

It was a story about “Cookie” Pelletier’s quest to salvage wood from the city’s compost station to heat her house that prompted Scott and his companion and caretaker, Sharon Roy, to visit the Beacon two weeks ago. He was outraged Cookie was stopped from taking the wood when others were allowed to do so. In fact, as the Beacon was told by Department of Public Works director Eric Earls, a worker using heavy equipment while moving yard waste yelled at Cookie for fear of injuring her as he scouted for logs, branches and pallets.

Scott didn’t see the story from that perspective.

The city was depriving a woman in her 70s from securing fuel to heat her home that would otherwise be ground into chips and eventually turned into compost. Wasn’t the city there to help people? And why was he being hassled over living in a trailer when he’s not bothering anyone and the property is meticulously maintained? Couldn’t the city spend its time chasing down building code offenders whose properties are neighborhood black eyes?

Citations and Salutations

The story unfolded. He was cited for living in the trailer on multiple occasions and finally told to appear in municipal court under threat of being arrested earlier this year. But as it happened, Scott had just undergone another back surgery. He forwarded a letter from his doctor advising the city of his condition. The city insisted he make an appearance.

“This is where I was,” Scott said, showing a picture of himself on life support. Scott appeared in court nonetheless, and while standing slumped to the floor. A rescue was called and he was taken to the hospital.

Scott is no stranger to hospitals either as a patient or a firefighter.

His family moved to Providence when Scott was 10. He attended St. Michael’s School and went on to LaSalle Academy. Scott had a low draft number — 23 — and he figured he would get called up, probably to the Army infantry. If he was going to be in the military, he wanted to be in the Air Force and a fighter pilot. A friend introduced him to an avionics program at Northeastern University that could lead him to a pilot’s license and with that he was told, if drafted, he could end up flying.

Scott’s draft number was never called but he got his pilot’s license and went on to take a course in aviation technology that enabled him to teach ground school. He gave flying lessons and later went on to fly small planes commercially, mostly short hops between cities.

Chutes & Ladders

If Scott’s story is a bit confusing, it’s because he rarely turned down an opportunity to try something new or buy something that offered the chance to make money.

Somewhere along the way he thought he wanted to be a doctor and enrolled in Brown University, and there was sky diving and his dream of developing a parachute that could be steered with the use of toggles to close and open flaps.

Scott got a parachute used for dropping heavy equipment from cargo aircraft. The chute was huge. Scott cut it to create flaps and outfitted it with controls. He jumped out at 5,500 feet and deployed the chute. What he hadn’t taken into consideration was the chute was designed for loads far heavier than him. Instead of going down, air currents started carrying Scott up. He worked the toggles to release air and Scott started heading down faster than planned.

He ended up in the middle of a kids’ softball game, which everyone figured was part of a prearranged show. There were applause, but no one helped to deflate the chute that was now dragging him across the field.

“I cracked my head and got banged up,” Scott said. “That didn’t work.”

He gave up on the chute idea.

Don’t Forget My Chihuahua!

But he didn’t give up when it came to applying for a job with the Providence Fire Department. A friend put him onto the opportunity and an acquaintance worked to put him in physical shape for the agility test. Out of the hundreds applying for the jobs, Scott ended up 51st on the list and eighth on completion of the academy. He got the job.

Because of his interest in medicine and limited time at Brown, at the department’s expense, Scott went on to get an associate’s degree in fire science from CCRI. He was an EMT with multiple certifications.

The job put Scott in the middle of the action. He flips through an album of newspaper clippings detailing a rescue from a car squashed under a fuel tanker where he ended up being trapped as the tanker truck tires deflated.

He recalls carrying an overweight woman from a raging fire and her plea to save her Chihuahua. The dog made it, too.

Firefighting took its toll.

“I was the first in,” Scott said describing how he hauled hoses into burning buildings and carried people out. In battling one blaze, the floor collapsed, breaking both legs. In other fires he lost three fingers that were later reattached, popped a knee that he’d drain until it got so bad that he had it replaced and multiple foot fractures when he got run over by stretcher carrier.

That’s not counting the broken neck from his first airplane crash or being shot when responding to an emergency call. The plane accident resulted from an engine failure shortly after take off on a training flight out of Norfolk Airport in 1974. Scott took the controls from the student. He was faced with two options: steering the plane into a clearing and high tension wires or into the trees. He chose the trees and when the craft hit the branches at about 90MPH, it bounced the plane backward. The craft flipped five times before stopping upside down. The second accident, fortunately, was less dramatic and occurred on the ground when the plane ran out of runway.  

Collateral Blast

Scott was shot as he sought to convince a young man to remove the barrel of a shotgun from his month. Whether intentional or not, the gun fired, spraying shot. Scott was hit and the young man later died from his wounds.

Scott has had his scrapes with the law, as well. In January of 2017 he was arrested for pointing a rifle, which turned out to be an air gun, at three officers at his Warwick Neck home.

The arrest for arson was many years earlier. Following a house fire on Baker Street in Providence, Scott bought the property and cleaned it up as sort of a park on the street where he grew up. He was arrested some time later on claims he had been seen setting fires.

The late Judge John Orton presided at the trail where the jury found him innocent. Scott, who had been suspended from his firefighting job, was rehired and received back pay.  

Renaissance Man

Scott’s entrepreneurism has made him lots of money.

It can be traced to his early days on the fire department, when he complained of all the free time he had between shifts. A ranking officer suggested he start a landscaping business as other firefighters had done. He followed the advice and bought a Guardian lawn mower at Benny’s for $108 and ran a newspaper ad.

Sandy Beecroft who lived on Warwick Neck was one of many who called. Scott, who was living in Providence, didn’t want to make the hike to Warwick, but Beecroft was persistent. Soon Sandy had Scott doing odd jobs and looking after the house when she was away.

Sandy’s friends hired Scott. Former Governor Philip Noel was one of the customers Scott ended up working for. In the process, the business grew and Scott bought a truck and backhoe. When Sandy, who was in France called to say she was having a giant dining room table shipped home, Scott told her there wasn’t a room large enough for it.  She gave him the go-ahead to build an addition.

Scott found himself in the construction business, and that oddly resulted in him buying and selling fine art.

Like most Scott stories, with the exception of his accidents and crashes, this one has the Midas touch.

With the Beecroft addition completed, Sandy insisted on hiring a woman known for her “faux” painting of marble and other materials to paint the room. Scott was fascinated by her work and offered to help. He found her a truck which enabled her to expand her business. He drove the truck and learned how to do gold leaf, which he carried to the extreme when he gold-leafed the bathroom in his garage, making, as he observed, the bathroom more valuable than the garage.

He delved into the world of fine art, reading about the masters and going to shows. Soon he was buying and selling art works. The money was coming in. He and the painter — he didn’t identify her — worked together for 21 years.

Art work is not all he bought and sold. Houses and cars are also on his list.

At one point he bought a limousine from a funeral parlor and opened a limo service. That actually led to him getting married. Scott doesn’t talk about that. He is still married. They don’t live together and they don’t have kids.

The Knife & the Bottle

Scott’s adventuresome side more or less came to an end and medical trials accelerated following the accident when he broke both legs. He was forced to leave the fire department in 2000. He underwent 30 surgeries on his right leg and at one point he was scheduled to have it amputated. That didn’t happen.

Scott had time on his hands, and for the first time, he started drinking. He has a low tolerance for alcohol yet craved it.  He went through a prolonged bad spell before realizing where he was headed and got help.

The trailer has been his house for at least the past five years. Now, suddenly it’s a problem because of the zoning.

It doesn’t make sense to him and he plans to voice his protest with signs. But that’s not going to change the zoning.

Last week he appeared in Municipal Court for a third time. He didn’t come away with a ruling that he could live in the trailer as hoped. Instead, he was fined $1,000 plus court costs and told if found sleeping in the trailer after Feb. 15 he would be fined $500 per incident.

“The judgment is I can’t fall asleep,” he said with a laugh. At this point neither he nor his caretaker Roy have plans to move to the house; seek a zone change or defy the ruling. He shakes his head in disbelief that police might come in the early morning hours to see if he has fallen asleep.

He asks: How is that hurting anyone? How is Cookie taking some branches from the compost station hurting anyone?

“We don’t have parties here, we don’t drink. We’re just here and getting older,” he said. Scott wants to keep it that way although he plans on driving the Lotus and dreams of owning other very fast cars.

Scott, insomnia


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