Updated 2:35 pm, Wednesday
Firefighters from Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Tisbury fought a house fire on Kim’s Way in Oak Bluffs late Tuesday morning. The blaze destroyed the house at the end of a short dirt street off Wing Road.
Fire investigators later determined that the cause of the fire was an overloaded power strip located under the raised dwelling. An extension cord was connected to a recreational vehicle parked within two feet of the back corner of the house. The RV was occupied by Craig MacCormack, the owner of the house.
Mr. MacCormack was inside the vehicle when the fire began. He was not injured.
Greg and Heather Arpin were tenants in the house. They were not at home at the time, but their pet Labrador died in the fire.
Mr. Arpin is an employee of the Transportation Security Administration, assigned to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Ms. Arpin is a counselor at the Connect to End Violence program, operated by Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Reached by phone the day after the fire, Mr. Arpin said it was a tough, long day. He thanked the firefighters for their response and singled out two firefighters whose names he didn’t know, who helped him and his wife go through the charred rubble looking for some important items.
“They got on their hands and knees with us, looking for my wedding band,” Mr. Arpin said, overcome with emotion.
They gave up looking only when darkness made it impossible, without finding the ring. Mr. Arpin said he intends to search some more.
The couple left Martha’s Vineyard to stay with family temporarily.
Mr. Arpin’s coworkers at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport are organizing a drive to raise money and collect donations of clothing, blankets, kitchen items, and bedding.
“Everybody is really pulling together for us,” Mr. Arpin said.
Ms. Arpin’s co-worker, Christina Costello, said people who would like to help may call her at 508-361-1987.
Fire and ammunition
Flames were shooting from the small, one-story house when the first Oak Bluffs firefighters arrived. That was not the only danger for first responders.
“On top of the big fire load,” Oak Bluffs Assistant Chief John Rose said, “there was multiple caliber ammunition going off in the building.”
At first, Mr. Rose told The Times that bullets came near the firefighters. He later said he was wrong.
Ammunition casings will explode in a fire but with no gun barrel to build pressure bullets have no velocity, according to firearms experts.
“We could see cartridges coming out of the building. It wasn’t like we needed to take cover,” Mr. Rose said.
Mr. Rose said Mr. Arpin had a large collection of guns and ammunition, all legally licensed.
Mr. Rose immediately ordered all firefighters away from the building, and they began a defensive attack, dousing the flames with high-capacity hoses from more than 50 feet away.
“We hit the structure from the outside of the building to cool it down, until we knocked everything down and the bullets stopped going off,” he said.
The immediate focus was to keep the fire from spreading to two buildings just a few feet away. Oak Bluffs firefighters called for help from Tisbury and Edgartown.
“It was great community support,” Mr. Rose said. “With school vacation, all departments are shorthanded, people are away with their kids.”
Firefighters drew water from a hydrant on Wing Road, a short distance from the fire. Oak Bluffs firefighters used their aerial ladder truck to drop several firefighters onto the roof, where they cut a vent hole, as firefighters on the ground poured water through the windows of the building.
NSTAR cut an electric line leading to the burning building.
Though the structure was still standing when the fire was out, the interior of the house was completely gutted. According to assessor’s records, the property is valued at $369,700. Mr. MacCormack could not be reached for comment.
Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office worked with their counterparts on the Island to determine the cause of the fire.