Water heater was the source of Cafe Moxie July 4 fire
Tisbury assistant fire chief James Rogers has determined that the fire that destroyed Cafe Moxie restaurant and heavily damaged Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Main Street on July 4 began in a gas-fired water heater in the basement of the restaurant. He labeled the fire accidental.
Mr. Rogers, a certified state fire inspector, said he has not been able to determine whether the water heater was the specific source of the fire.
"I can't say if it was the water heater exactly itself, but it was something to do with the water heater," said Mr. Rogers.
A water heater was one of the appliances lifted from the basement of Cafe Moxie during the investigation. Mr. Rogers said an insurance company has custody of the device. Pictures of the water heater show black charring where flames extended upward from its ignition box. Other than charring around the ignition box, the lower part of the water heater remained relatively undamaged, but the upper half of the tank was completely blackened by the flames.
Mr. Rogers said his investigation is complete. However, insurance investigators have requested information about permits connected to the history of the water heater from the town plumbing and gas inspector, Mike Ciancio.
State law requires that anyone doing work on gas water heaters have a valid plumbing permit, and a valid gas permit from the town of Tisbury, according to Mr. Ciancio.
Photo by Susan Safford
Mr. Ciancio's job is to inspect the work after it is done, to make sure gas lines are the proper size, and properly connected, and that the water heater is properly vented, so that the byproducts of combustion are directed outside the building.
"If someone doesn't pull the permit, I can't inspect it," said Mr. Ciancio.
Mr. Rogers said he did not find any permits for work on the water heater. He said because the labels were burned off the heater he was unable to determine when the water heater was installed. "I can't say when it was put in, so I can't say whether there was any violation of state law," he said.
He said when questioned, building owner Paul Currier, could not remember when the water heater was installed, or whether it was already there when he took ownership of the building. According to town assessor's records, Mr. Currier's corporation, P & C Moxie was first listed as the owner in April 2002.
Mr. Rogers and Mr. Ciancio said they expect that the insurance companies will pursue the permitting issue further.