Investigation points to cigarettes in fatal Edgartown house fire

David Cleary, 32, who had just stepped out of the shower, died in the blaze.

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The charred exterior of the house was covered in ice following a devastating fire Wednesday night. Photo by Steve Myrick.

Updated 11:05 am, Thursday

Police Thursday morning identified the victim of a devastating house fire at 25 Boylston Drive in Edgartown Wednesday night as David Cleary, 32, of Edgartown.

Firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel found the single family residence fully engulfed in flames when they arrived just after 9 pm. Occupants of the residence reported that the owner of the house, David Cleary, was still inside the house, according to a press release police issued Thursday morning.

The fire was extinguished and Mr. Cleary, a former manager at Stop &Shop, was found dead in the house.

An investigation by local and state investigators revealed the sequence of events.

“There were four people in the home,” Edgartown Detective Chris Dolby said in a press release. “Three occupants were on the first floor and discovered that a significant fire had started in the screened in portion of the small house. They began to evacuate and called up to David Cleary who was on the second floor. They observed David, who had just gotten out of the shower, wrapped in a towel. David initially began to evacuate with them and then turned back. Once the occupants were all outside they realized that David had not come out. They made efforts to get back into the house, but were turned back by the flames. Two of the occupants sustained injuries and were transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.”

Mr. Cleary’s body was found fully clothed on the first floor. An autopsy will be conducted by the State Medical Examiner’s office, Mr. Dolby said.

Initial reports from the scene Thursday evening indicated Mr. Cleary may have gone back into the home to save a pet, but that was not the case, according to Det. Dolby.

The occupants had been smoking cigarettes within the screened in porch area of the house prior to the fire. This area was determined to be where the fire originated. Additional evidence led investigators to conclude that the fire was caused by careless disposal of smoking materials.

Oak Bluffs Fire department responded as mutual aid and assisted with extinguishing the fire.

“It’s tough,” Edgartown Fire Chief Peter Shemeth said as he stood in the frigid wind Wednesday night. “No fire is a good fire, but this…”

The house is located in a subdivision off Metcalf Drive just to the west of the Vineyard Golf Club. The first call came in at 9:09 pm. When firefighters arrived, they found the one and a half story wood frame home fully engulfed in fire, according to Chief Shemeth. They quickly knocked down the flames. The charred frame of a side section remained standing. The interior of the main section of the home was heavily damaged, but the exterior was mostly intact.

Firefighters stood in silence shortly after 11 pm as several of their colleagues brought the body of Mr. Cleary out of the home, through an opening cut in the exterior wall of the main section of the structure.

Firefighters secured the fire scene overnight.

Thursday morning, Edgartown fire and police officials joined state investigators at the scene.

Chief Shemeth said strong winds accelerated the fire quickly, and made fighting the fire difficult.

“Fortunately, the wind died down a little bit,” he said. “It was really howling when we got here.”

According to assessors records, the home is owned by Jennifer and David Cleary.