Raging blaze destroys house off Sea Glen Road in Oak Bluffs

The house was totally engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 4:30 pm, Friday

Firefighters from Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Edgartown fought a house fire Thursday, March 8, on the corner of Fairway Drive and Wheelhouse Way off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs. The house was a total loss. As flames, fanned by strong southwest winds, consumed the structure, firefighters struggled to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby house and brush.

At least two people were in the house when the fire began. Everybody got out safely, along with several pets. One person was treated at the scene for minor burns and singed hair. Heavy smoke blew through the area, creating hazardous driving conditions.

The communications center issued the first call for a “fully involved structure fire” in the Sea Glen Road neighborhood at approximately 3:15 pm. At first, Oak Bluffs firefighters responded, but they were soon joined by units from Tisbury and Edgartown. EMTs from the three down-Island towns joined in.

Assistant Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose said that the wind, gusting in excess of 35 miles-per-hour, was a dangerous contributing factor. “In the beginning phase of this we were dealing with the potential to lose other properties, because of the wind and how fast the fire was spreading,” Mr. Rose said. “The wind was driving the fire to two adjacent exposures, so we had to concentrate our primary efforts on the house to the delta side of the building. We also had two brush fires on the bravo side of the building that were moving toward the buildings in the back of the house, driven by the winds as well.”

Firefighters had an ample supply of water from a nearby hydrant in the initial stages of the battle, Mr. Rose said. As additional units arrived from Edgartown, firefighters set up a water line from the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road to provide additional support.

“Still waiting for water, still waiting for water,” was the call from one radio during the height of the blaze. The call led at first to reports that firefighters were having difficulty getting water on the fire. “Due to the extreme length of that lay, it just took us a while to get the water all the way into the scene,” Mr. Rose said.

The fight was over about 4:10 pm.

“We were extremely concerned about the wind,” Oak Bluffs fire chief Pete Forend said. “We’re extremely lucky it’s just this one house.”

Investigators from the office of the state fire marshall and local fire investigators spent time at the fire scene Friday.

In a telephone call Friday afternoon, Mr. Forend said it appears the fire began in a front corner bedroom on the first floor of the home. He said the preliminary investigation points to an accidental fire, possibly related to an electrical problem.

Island fire officials routinely call in state investigators if the fire causes a large monetary loss, or if there is a loss of life.