Early morning fire at Blue Heron Farm, site of presidential retreat

President Obama greets well wishers at Nancy's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs while on vacation in 2009. — File photo by Steve Myrick

An early morning fire at the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark slightly damaged the house where President Barack Obama and his family are expected to stay when they arrive on Martha’s Vineyard for vacation on Thursday, August 18.

The cause was an unattended outdoor gas cooking grill left on overnight, Chilmark police chief Brian Cioffi said. Firefighters put out the blaze quickly, and damage was confined to the exterior of the clapboard farmhouse.

At about 3:31 am, Chilmark Police, members of the volunteer Chilmark and West Tisbury fire departments, and the Tri-Town Ambulance responded to a report of a fire at 41 Cobb’s Hill, called in by the Electronic Security Systems alarm company.

Mr. Cioffi said renters were in the house at the time of the fire. All occupants evacuated safely.

“Early detection is what prevented what could have been a very serious fire,” Chief Cioffi told The Times.

Tom Wallace of Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Real Estate, rental agent for Blue Heron Farm, told The Times he received a call at 3:37 am, Tuesday morning.

“We have one very impressive group of firefighters in the two towns,” Mr. Wallace said. “The damage is remarkably minimal. We’re already in the process of finishing cleanup. My guess is, in 24 hours, you wouldn’t know anything happened.”

“The family that is staying there,” he added, “has decided it’s not going to interfere with their vacation.”

Of course, it is not the family that is staying there, but the family that is expected to arrive next Thursday, that is attracting all the attention. This would be the third year in a row that the Obamas have stayed at Blue Heron Farm.

The Obama family’s favorite vacation rental in Chilmark is a 28-acre compound, owned by William and Mollie Van Devender of Mississippi. It overlooks Tisbury Great Pond and the Atlantic Ocean and features a boathouse, basketball court, pool, barn, and a single hole golf course.