Fire investigation nearly done, cause unknown
Fire investigators have finished their physical examination of the scene where Café Moxie burned on July 4, but the cause of the fire that destroyed the popular restaurant, and heavily damaged Bunch of Grapes bookstore, remains undetermined.
A roster of fire investigators and attorneys, representing the town of Tisbury and several of the insurance companies involved, were at the fire scene this past Thursday, as charred rubble was cleared away, and the pungent odor of burned and rotting food wafted out onto Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Investigators watched with keen interest as debris was lifted out of what was once the basement of the restaurant. Among the items inspected were a water heater, ice maker, refrigerator, and some copper tubing. Some of the debris was removed from the scene by investigators.
"Our physical examination is over," said Tisbury fire chief John Schilling. "The evidence is being analyzed for final determination of the cause of the fire."
On Friday, state representative Eric Turkington, toured the scene, along with Mark Forest, chief of staff for Congressman William Delahunt. Mr. Forest, who counts himself among the many enthusiastic customers of the bookstore and restaurant, said he has advised the owners about the federal resources they may use to get back in business. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the federal Small Business Administration have been invited to examine the economic impact of the fire. Mr. Forest said once those evaluations are complete "a whole alphabet soup of agencies" will determine whether federal assistance is available to the owners of the buildings and businesses damaged by the fire, as well as the Vineyard Haven companies that may suffer from the loss of two businesses which drew visitors to the downtown shopping district.
Whatever happens, the process will likely be measured in months, not in weeks.
"I'm thinking spring," said Jon Nelson, owner of Bunch of Grapes, when asked when the store might reopen.
Photo by Susan Safford
Yesterday, he was overseeing the salvage of merchandise damaged by smoke and water. He said none of the merchandise could be saved. Inside the bookstore, it was evident how close the building came to burning completely. Charred ceiling joists extended nearly half the way across the first floor ceiling, and sunlight filtered through large gaps in the common wall shared with Café Moxie. Debris covered the stacks of new books. Ironically, a copy of David Sedaris's book, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames," currently atop the New York Times hardcover non-fiction best-seller list, still sat in the window display. A stack of the bestseller sits near the front of the store, covered with ash.
Mr. Nelson expects the salvage, and subsequent cleanup, to be completed early next week. Only then can experts determine the work needed to repair the building. The building is owned by his mother, Ann Nelson, who operated the bookstore for many years before selling the business to her son.
Mr. Nelson said it is his intention to reopen the award-winning store, but until his insurance company sorts out all of the issues involved, he remains uncertain about the future.
Photo by Steve Myrick