Martha’s Vineyard firefighters battled brush fires Sunday

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File photo by Mae Deary

Martha’s Vineyard firefighters from several towns were called to battle a raging brush fire off Holmes Hole Road on Sunday, March 25. Firefighters responded to an initial call about the fire at 2 pm and fought the blaze for four hours. No one was hurt and no property was damaged, Tisbury fire chief John Schilling said.

The fire involved about eight acres of land behind Tisbury’s old septage lagoons, just beyond the John Rogers Memorial Dog Park. The first call about heavy smoke set off a search by Tisbury firefighters for the source. Tanker trucks and brush-breaking trucks also rushed to the area, which straddles the Tisbury and West Tisbury town line.

“The initial difficulty was in finding it,” Chief Schilling said. “Roads aren’t readily available in there, so we had to go back out on State Road, go up the road in the area of the old Chicama Vineyards, and back again. We were twisted around in getting in there and to the fire.”

The fire also was spreading in two directions, which led to confusion about whether it was one or multiple fires. “It took a little while to determine that it was one fire in that location,” Chief Schilling said.

Chief Schilling said he requested assistance from the Mass Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) which called in a State Police helicopter to provide information on the exact location and extent of the fire, estimated at one point to be one half-mile wide, he said.

West Tisbury firefighters provided mutual aid initially, with tanker and brush-breaking trucks on both sides of the fire. Chief Schilling said Chilmark responded with additional tanker trucks and Oak Bluffs set up a pumper truck on Holmes Hole Road. Edgartown firefighters also assisted, as did Tisbury Ambulance Service and Tri-County Ambulance.

“It was quite an involved operation,” Chief Schilling said. “All told, I don’t know how many personnel were involved. Suffice it to say, a good portion of the Island’s fire services were wrapped up in this call. It illustrates what a good system we have with mutual aid.”

Chief Schilling said firefighters were unable to determine the brush fire’s cause. “Conditions are very dry right now, since we haven’t had our usual winter moisture,” he said. “Fire officials throughout New England are concerned.”